Ten Year Anniversary

March 18, 2018

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It is hard for me to believe but it was 10 years ago that I created my first game and started my company Rule the School.  How did that happen you ask?  In 2002 I started a new job as an Itinerant Teacher in a large public school district’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program.  My training and experience as a speech-language pathologist and teacher of the deaf made me feel comfortable with most aspects of the job.  However, I had IEPs that had self-advocacy goals on them and I had no idea how to teach that.  So I did a lot of investigating, reading, talking to others and I learned from my students, especially from going into their classes.  I gradually  learned what knowledge and skills they needed to acquire, practice and use.

Maybe because my oldest daughter was very hyperactive, I am a proponent of brain-based active learning.  I also knew from experience that kids love to do anything called a “game”.  So I came up with the idea of teaching self-advocacy skills in a game format.  I sketched my board game idea on paper, used index cards for the card decks and used my students’ feedback to refine it.  At that point I knew a few things for sure.  First, it was a good idea.  Second, it was a niche product.  Third, I had no idea how to sell it.  Remember, this was 2008.  TeachersPayTeachers had only started in 2006 so was still quite small and I had not yet heard of it.  Also, I was old and did not know how to create things digitally!

At that point I picked up a catalog of online courses called ed2go and found a course titled something like how to turn teacher made materials into products for sale.  It was developed and taught by a high school chemistry teacher who was successful at this.  It was an excellent course and was truly “cookbook” style.  As a result of that course I had  a plan.  I asked a very talented graphic designer that I knew from middle school carpool to create my game board.  Because I am an itinerant I wanted something compact so she created a game board that folded into a small square.

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I also needed something sturdy to carry everything in so I decided to package it in the colorful and attractive Blingvelopes.


After I had some paper copies of the game I gave it to several colleagues to try out and give me feedback.  I heard a lot of positive feedback but also suggestions to make it data-based.  With that advice, I developed data sheets for each of the two card decks and sample ways to write IEP goals for the skills included in the game.

data sheets

I then had the game boards manufactured and the card decks professionally printed.  It was important to me that each card deck also come with blank cards so folks can add scenarios as well as individualize it for students.

How was I going to sell the game?  I knew that I had to have an online store and thank goodness my husband is a techie so he was able to set up a website and store using Paypal.

After I developed my second product, I began exhibiting at conferences.  What fun! Today it is the thing that I enjoy the most.  I love meeting people from all over the world and talking about their students and their programs!

In 2011 the world of apps was exploding so my husband turned my first three games into apps available in iTunes.


In iTunes there is a link to my website to print out the Data Sheets and Sample IEP goals.  Then in 2014 I had the graphics for my board game converted into two 8″ x 11″ pages and began selling it and the rest of the games and activities on  TeachersPayTeachers.  I am so glad that I persisted in developing this first game and the rest of my self-advocacy games and products for students with hearing loss.  It is my passion that my students become independent and these resources help me and many others toward that goal.

In honor of this anniversary year there will be money saving ways to get your Rule the School Products throughout 2018!  Check this website, Facebook and Instagram tomorrow March 19th, 2018 to see how to get a free digital product.

From the Beginning (or not)

January 6, 2018

How is eligibility for special education services for students with hearing loss determined for school-aged children? 

I currently have a kindergartner for whom we signed the referral and permission to test paperwork just before Christmas break.  I would like to share what information I gather, how I interpret it and what the IEP and interventions will look like.  (My school district provides preschool services that are separate from the school-age services so I work with children in Grades K-12.)

With all students new to me, I start by assembling a Timeline of Information beginning at birth because hearing is tested at birth.  The critical things I am looking for is age of diagnosis, age of amplification and age when intervention began.  Other important factors are medical issues/health, assessments completed, language in the home and parental understanding.


After the paperwork is signed for testing, I collaborate with the SLP and we divvy up the testing so we each know what the other is doing.  For this kindergartner, the SLP will complete:

  • a speech-language screening
  • PLS-5
  • Montgomery Assessment of Vocabulary Acquisition (MAVA).

I will do:

  • Test of Narrative Language
  • auditory skills using the Auditory Learning Guide
  • Phonological Awareness Test-2
  •  spontaneous language sample
  • informal self-advocacy assessment
  • classroom observations.

The School Psychologist will do:

  • educational achievement testing
  • intellectual testing
  • adaptive behavior
  • classroom observations.

We have 90 days from the date that the referral was first made to the school to complete the testing, write narrative reports and have a formal meeting to discuss results and plan interventions.


My perspective as a Teacher of the Deaf and Speech Language Pathologist is different from most of the members of school special education teams because factors surrounding hearing loss are so different than for disabilities schools typically see such as learning disabilities, speech-language impairments and other health impairments.  For those students it may make sense to provide regular education interventions or “exposure” to regular education to determine if that helps them “catch up”.

However, for kids born with hearing loss, the impact starts in the womb.  Research has shown that speech processing begins when the auditory system becomes functional at 25 weeks gestation.  For a baby failing a newborn hearing screening more delays may happen before appropriate evidence-based interventions are begun.  These delays may be due to other medical issues, lack of parental understanding, mental health issues of the parents, living a far distance from pediatric ENTs and audiologists and lack of knowledgeable professionals providing intervention.


We know that the brain has the greatest ability to re-wire itself between the ages of birth to three years and that ability decreases as the child gets older.  Because of this fact, interventions with young kids with hearing loss should be characterized by a sense of urgency.  Hearing loss in children is frequently referred to as a neurological emergency.   So my perspective for young students who show delays in language and literacy is to give them as much intervention as possible at the youngest age possible to hopefully close the language and literacy gap between their current abilities and their potential abilities as soon as possible!

I will keep you posted about this student and the outcomes.


New Materials for a New Year!


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By the time December of this school year came around, I decided I needed some new materials to liven things up.  In June, 2017 I attended the AG Bell Listening and Spoken Language Symposium where I heard Rehab Audiologist Lynn Wood give an excellent presentation on her favorite games.  So I dug up that information, looked at all the games and decided to purchase Tall Tales on Amazon.

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There were several reasons that I chose this particular activity.

√  It is a simple concept – the student picks at least 8 objects out of the bag one at a time and tells a story as she goes along.

  The interest level is appropriate for a wide age range.  I needed something to use with my 12 year old working on complex language as well as a new 5 year old that I’m evaluating.

  It can be used with widely different language levels.

  It can be used to teach early literacy vocabulary such as setting, character, beginning, middle and ends of stories, as well as phonological awareness targets such as stating the beginning sound in a word used, giving a rhyming word or segmenting a word used.  The activity can be video recorded to help with this.

  It can be used to gather a spontaneous or narrative language sample in a fun way that is different every time you use it.

Tall Tales has been a big hit with both students mentioned above!

If you would like tons of language and listening ideas, visit Lynn’s award-winning website:

FREE Activity for Complex Language


Did you know that the cochlear implant companies have free materials on their websites?  Let’s look at the wealth of materials offered by Med-el.   In addition to their online activities,  sets of materials are periodically posted that can be downloaded, printed, adapted and used in articulation, language and auditory skill development.

The latest lesson focuses on body parts:  teaching the vocabulary as well as using it in a multitude of language and listening activities.  Lesson plans are included!  Check out everything included:

Med-el lesson description

For my current caseload I have a couple of older elementary students with auditory memory and complex expressive grammar goals.  I printed out the pictures on Pages 18 and 19 of the downloaded kit onto card stock and cut them out.  Each picture contains 3 directions, for example;  “Touch your wrist, your nose then your knees.”  or


Then I created directions using complex grammar such as “After I blink my eyes, touch your hair, nose then stomach.”  Here are a set of directions using complex grammar with a data sheet, explanation and variations.  If the directions are too long for a student, they can be shortened on the data sheet then printed.  I hope you find it helpful!

Fun with Yes-No Buttons

October 15, 2017

I see these buttons everywhere around schools.  Then I read about some fun ideas on  using them in speech-language therapy from SLP Talk with Desiree.   Her blog and video describe how she uses them in phonological awareness, language and articulation activities.

I thought they sounded like a lot of fun for the kids.  But, as an itinerant teacher of deaf/hard of hearing students my first thought with any materials needed during a session is the size and weight since I will be carrying them.  However, I found an old plastic container that worked perfectly.

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The lid was complete with dog tooth marks!


So how could I use these in working with deaf/hard of hearing students?

My first thought was a self-advocacy activity.   I came up with some statements for the students to judge if it was something they should or should not do.  I made these into Yes-No Questions that you can use if you like!   I also added them to the Free Resources page of this website.  My younger students loved it!

Another way to use these buttons is to tie into retrieval practice from the previous blogs and review the vocabulary for hearing aids and/or FM.  This is really important for ADD students.  There are three sets of cards that are part of Hearing Aid Bingo, FM inspiro Bingo and or Roger Pen FM Bingo.  One set is pictures, one is labels of the parts and the other is function of the parts.  Select any two of the decks and shuffle the cards but keep the decks separate (EX:  Shuffle all the labels together.)  The student selects a card from each deck.  If they go together the student presses the “Yes” button; if not then the “No” button.  The student may keep selecting cards from 1 pile until she gets a “Yes”.  This can be used as a quick review of 3-5 vocabulary words. 

These buttons can be used in the same way for any kind of vocabulary practice.  I love the website Quizlet.  You can print the word and definition cards off and play a similar game with the two decks.

Another idea is to create a set of sentences with some containing grammatical errors that the student typically makes.  The student or adult reads a sentence and if it is grammatically correct, hits the “Yes” button.  Examples:  “The dog eating” –  hit the “No” button.  “She is cutting the playdough” – hit the “Yes” button.

That makes me think of “ear training”.  Van Riper, anyone?  OK, how about Hodson?  You could produce the student’s target sound correctly or incorrectly and they have to listen to judge Yes or No.  You could also say words and the student must listen for the presence or absence of the target sound.  Example for /s/:  Student hits the No button when the adult says “football” and Yes for “basketball”.

Thanks, Desiree, for your ideas!

How else would you use these fun buttons?