An Interview with Becky Spivey and Beth Holland: Educational Gifts for Christmas

Dec 6, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1)      I am always being asked by parents for advice, guidance, and information to assist their child with speech, language, spelling, reading, and the like. Tell us about yourselves and if, in fact, you get asked the same questions.

Becky: I taught in public schools for 23 years, mostly in grades 4 and 5. When parents ask for advice, guidance, or information to help their child in school, my standard answer is, “Be involved.” Parents may not realize that speech and the learning of language begin at birth.  Being involved means knowing what your child is learning and doing in every class, every day. Knowing what your child is learning in school gives parents opportunities to expand and enhance school lessons by going to the library, finding, making up, and playing games, creating art projects, and writing.  Being involved means communicating constantly with your child and his or her teachers. Reading to and with your child from infancy lays the foundation for early literacy and promotes success in school. The more parents interact with their child in age-appropriate conversation, reading, and activities that involve learning language, the more likely the child will be successful in school.

Beth: I am a certified speech-language pathologist. My background includes working with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children in the public school setting (I’m not as brave as Becky, I’ll just say for double-digit years) before working in educational publishing. I, too, am often asked by parents what they can do at home to help their children and also asked by educators and daycare providers what they can recommend to parents. Being involved with your child and doing things with your child are key – a child learns so much from what he sees his parents doing, actions and behaviors parents model, and from experiencing the world with his parents.

2) With Christmas right around the corner, let’s start with the preschool and elementary-level children. What seems to be the greatest area of concern for parents with young children?

Becky: Many parents contact Super Duper with questions regarding their child’s readiness to begin school or advance to the next grade, lack of reading skills and comprehension, and auditory skills. Knowing normal developmental milestones of children can help parents understand if their child’s readiness for school is on target – or not. Early Developmental Milestones published by Super Duper gives parents an extensive checklist for monitoring these milestones. Our free Handy Handouts (found at www.handyhandouts.com) address many of the questions parents have about a child’s readiness for school, particular learning disabilities, and information regarding children with particular special needs and diagnoses. These free handouts cover a very wide range of educational topics about children or students with or without disabilities as well as simple activities that promote reading, writing, and social skills. Handy Handouts are a great resource for teachers and therapists as well as parents.

Beth: I’ll add that interacting with your child is crucial – play games with them; take them places (i.e., zoo, museum, children’s theater) and talk about what you see and do while you are there.  As Becky mentioned earlier, reading to children is critical – children learn so much language and vocabulary when they are read to from infancy and throughout the elementary years.  As students get ready for entering school, development of basic concepts, vocabulary, and the ability to follow directions are important.   For 3 to 5-year olds, activities like Super Duper Publication’s Photo Fish Verbs are a nice way to play and learn. Children enjoy the “fishing” game play while they practice telling what is happening in the action photos.  Also, since computers are part of the everyday lives of our children, 4- and 5-year olds may enjoy using software such as HearBuilder Following Directions – Home Edition to practice basic concepts and following oral directions.

3)      Overall, at the elementary level, what seems to be the areas of most concern and what do you recommend?

Beth: For younger elementary students, laying the foundation for reading is crucial.  Working at home with materials like HearBuilder Phonological Awareness helps students set the stage for successful reading.  For older elementary students, vocabulary development with materials like Just for Laughs or a describing game like Jeepers Peepers is a good way for the whole family to get involved!

I also encourage parents to read to their children daily!  Read aloud to children from books that are a little harder than the books the children can read by themselves – this provides children exposure to and with vocabulary and language skills, and is a nice activity parents and children can do together.  Show children that you read as well – go to the library together, have children see you reading books/newspapers/magazines in your free time, and talk about how you use reading throughout the day (for example, reading the directions on a recipe, reading scores in the newspaper, reading a letter/email from grandma, etc.).

Becky: Auditory processing and phonological awareness seem to top the list of concerns at the elementary level. Our research-based, award winning, HearBuilder series (Following Directions, Phonological Awareness, Auditory Memory, and Sequencing) provides a systematic way to improve students’ auditory skills, comprehension, and critical thinking as they work step-by-step on multiple-level learning tasks that gradually increase in difficulty. These programs include short tutorials that teach students key strategies for listening comprehension. Immediate feedback keeps students motivated as they develop their abilities to recall and execute verbal information. Each of the programs has the capability of adding background noise to give students practice listening in distracting situations and make the program a little more challenging. All four HearBuilder programs are excellent choices for enhancing foundational skills for learning.

4) Certainly, toys are nice, but often kids tire of them in a few days. At the middle school or junior high level- what are some materials that might assist at this level, and with what subject?

Becky: Many of our products can be used with middle and high school students that are struggling in certain subject areas and those who may have severe learning disabilities and/or special needs. The HearBuilder Auditory Memory, Sequencing, and Phonological Awareness mentioned previously can be programmed to meet the needs of middle and high school students with significant delays. We also have games, books, and Fun Decks that address language skills (grammar, vocabulary, and writing). Read Between the Lines (idioms), Word Joggers (vocabulary), Language Strategies for Older Students (language comprehension, oral expression, and grammar), Synonyms Galore, Oxymorons, Between the Lines (inferencing), The Question (conversation), Saying One Thing, Meaning Another (ambiguous language), Figurative Language Program,  and Ten Steps to Writing Better Essays are some of our best sellers for middle and high school students.

Beth: It is important for middle school students to be able to read for information since this is something they will need to do across all subject areas in schools.  Materials like Super Duper’s Reading for Details in Stories and What is the Main Idea? can help reinforce these skills. These Super Fun Decks provide practice with materials that are short in length so they can be done while riding in the car, sitting in a waiting room, etc.  Plus students get to use the Super Duper Secret Decoder to identify answers.

Another middle school option is the Question Challenge Card Game which uses a game format to help students with expressive and receptive language, social skills, and reasoning.  Again, it’s a nice way to involve family members in a game-type activity.

5) Many students still have difficulties at the high school level. What kinds of questions do you get from parents and what suggestions do you have for them?

Beth: For older students, vocabulary becomes crucial to understanding.  Learning multiple meaning words and the meanings of prefixes, suffixes, and root words is very helpful to vocabulary development.  For middle and high school students, two products come to mind: 500 Prefixes, Suffixes, and Stems Super Fun Sheets is a nice tool for working on vocabulary, and Map It Out helps students learn to use graphic organizers for note-taking and planning their work.

6) Are parents as knowledgeable about speech and language issues as they need to be? And what counsel, guidance, or advice do you provide?

Becky: I think many parents try to be involved by attending conferences, IEP meetings, and working with their child at home. However, I don’t think some parents are as knowledgeable as they could be if their child has a particular diagnosis pertaining to a speech, language, or learning disability. Too often, parents take the information given to them and accept it without question and leave it to the teacher or therapist to “fix it”. Parents should educate themselves extensively about their child’s developmental milestones, their diagnoses of any speech and language issues, and be up to date on the laws that provide and ensure that their child receives the individualized instruction they are entitled to within the public school system. Laws regarding special education change almost yearly. Because students with speech and language issues fall under the special education umbrella, parents should know and stay abreast of any changes in laws that may affect their child’s access to the individualized instruction they need and qualify for.

Beth:  Understanding speech and language development can be very complex, especially if your child is struggling in some areas.  First, parents should always consult their child’s educators – teachers, speech-language therapist, reading specialist, etc.  to find out what their child is working on and how they, as parents, can support these areas at home. Super Duper Publications provides free Handy Handouts for parents, teachers, SLPs, etc. with information on a wide variety of topics.  Visit www.handyhandouts.com and type a keyword into the search box. There are almost 400 handouts to choose from.  Some of the most popular include:

#29 Strengthen Holiday Language Skills at Home

#63 ABC’s of Reading Acquisition: Promoting Literacy Skills at Home

#10 Language Lessons in the Home

#233 Teaching the Fundamentals of Grammar and Syntax at Home

#92 My Child Has Problems with Math! How Can I Help at Home?

7) Could you tell us a bit about your web site, where to find it, and how to navigate it?

Becky: Super Duper’s website can be accessed by going to www.superduperinc.com. Our website is very simple and easy to navigate. At the top of the home page, viewers will immediately see a banner promoting our newest products along with advertisements of sales and other promotions. Just below the banner, viewers will find several tabs: Topics, Free Stuff, SAVE, Ordering, FAQs, Conferences, Contact Us, and My Account. Clicking the tabs results in a dropdown menu of different information.

The easiest way for customers to find a product to enhance or address their child’s needs is to click Topics. The Topics link provides an alphabetical dropdown selection of diagnoses and skills and subjects ranging from Augmentative Communication and Autism to Vocabulary and Voice. Clicking any subject will present a page(s) of Super Duper products that specifically address or include this topic. Customers can click on any of the products to see a full description, samples, Show Me How video, state standards that align to this product, and customer reviews. Our product pages are very descriptive, making it easy for customers to shop for items that specifically fit their child’s or student’s needs.

Beth: I’ll just add that the “Parent FAQ” on our website (www.superduperinc.com/landing/parents.aspx) offers parents information about some of the frequently asked questions we receive and provides suggestions by topic areas.

8) What have I neglected to ask?

Beth: Parents may wish to consider following Super Duper on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SuperDuperPublications), Twitter (@SuperDuperPub), and/or Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/superduperpub) for informational tips, videos, and periodic specials.

If parents are using a tablet with their children, they can visit www.superduperinc.com/apps to see the latest apps from Super Duper Publications. On this page, the apps are categorized by subject area. Click the icon for an app and watch the Show Me How Video on the app’s product page. The Show Me How video presents the app in use and reveals its other features as well.

Becky: Our customer help department is always ready and waiting to answer questions that customers (parents, teachers, SLPs, or other therapists) may have regarding our products. Our customers may also speak with a certified Speech-Language Pathologist or educator for help in selecting appropriate products for their child, student, or client addressing their specific diagnoses, therapy goals, or, for teaching, extension, or reinforcement of certain skills. While our SLPs and educators on staff cannot make a diagnosis or suggest a therapy or treatment plan, we are always available to suggest products that support the teacher’s or therapist’s goals for the child/student. To speak with Customer Help/SLP Help, please call 1-800-277-8737 between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday.

Thank you, Michael, for giving us the opportunity to share information about Super Duper Publications with you!

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