Digital Tools for Literacy

Dr. McPherson recently spoke on Digital Tools for Literacy at the Excellence in Education Conference hosted by the University of Dallas.

The session focused on providing parents and professionals with digital resources for helping their PreK-2nd grade students develop their literacy skills.

Topics discussed during the session included: iPAD Foundation Skills; Phonics; Storytelling; QR Codes; Interactive Books, and Experience Apps.

Take a look at this interactive session presentation, I'm sure there's something you can use!

Dr. Darnell, Ph.D., M.S., CCC-SLP  


Hi Everyone,

Dr. Rebekah McPherson and I are excited to be presenting Let's Talk: Technology Tools for Students with Speech Delays at the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association 2018 conference. The session will focus on equipping parents, educators, and clinicians with the tools they need to become critical consumers of technological applications being used to remediate expressive language disorders in children.

Check out the newsletter to learn more about how you can help children improve their expressive communication skills through fun and engaging tools.

Dr. Nikosi Darnell, Ph.D., M.S., CCC-SLP   


Okay, maybe I put the Texas accent on a little thick ya'll, but I am so excited to tell you about one of my latest finds for sweet treats in the Dallas area. I know, I know, everyone is probably on a health kick at this time of the year. However, we're nearly a month post New Year's resolutions, and there should be some allowances for making a trip to the Howdy Homemade ice-cream shop, right? I mean, who doesn't like ice cream?!?! And when you combine a love for ice cream with an ability to help individuals and families meet personal goals it's a win-win situation. That is what Howdy Homemade has done for individuals and families within its' community.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, let me tell you how I initially heard about Howdy Homemade.

As anyone who lives in Texas knows, we have been experiencing colder than normal temperatures during this winter season. In saying that, I have had no desire to eat anything cold, especially ice cream. However, one Sunday morning while huddled in my home due to "icy road conditions", I was watching the local news, which featured a story on Howdy Homemade that warmed my heart, even if not all the way down to my toes. The story highlighted Howdy Homemade as being opened by a local businessman who experienced difficulty retaining employees in his restaurants. Furthermore, he demonstrated a deep concern for individuals presenting with various physical and learning abilities. As a result, he decided to open an ice cream shop in which he would employ individuals presenting with physical and intellectual differences. He took his plan to various investors with their exhibiting little interest in supporting his idea, so he decided to launch his plan on his own. And guess what? It was a success, and continues to be so as evidenced by his employee retention rate - 100% over the past two years, and another location opening in Utah. However, don't just take my word for it, read more about this developing company by following this Source Link. Also, you can follow the link to a videoed interview by clicking the play button on the last picture to the right.

And now that it's warming up outside, I'm going to make a trip to Dallas for some Howdy Homemade ice cream! If you go, snap a pic and add it to the comments section. I would love for you to share your experience about Howdy Homemade with me!  

Nikosi Darnell, Ph.D., M.S., CCC-SLP

Developing Executive Function Skills in Your Kids




Moyamoya what?!?! That's what I said when a fellow speech pathologist expressed coming across this new diagnosis in her practice. The discussion arose out of my expressing my New Year's resolution to learn something new every day. In response to this statement, my friend said "I have something new that you probably haven't heard of", and she then proceeded to tell me about Moyamoya. The discussion piqued my interest so much that I decided to read further on the topic.

To give you a brief overview, Moyamoya is a rare, progressive disorder of the cerebral vessels that causes narrowing of the blood vessels to the brain. The part of the brain that is most impacted during the initial phases of Moyamoya is the basal ganglia. 

Why is the basal ganglia important you say? Well, let me start by telling you that the basal ganglia is the control center for: 

(a) Motor movements, such as walking, talking, writing, breathing, and eating. 

(b) Executive functions, which we use to maintain attention, make decisions, regulate our behaviors, and much more.

(c) Behaviors, such as self-regulation.

(d) Emotions as related to mood control.

All of these functions in combination provide the opportunity for healthy development physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially. 

As Moyamoya impacts both children and adults, it is important to be aware of the associated symptoms with the disease process. People with Moyamoya can experience disturbed consciousness, sensory and cognitive impairments, speech deficits, aphasia, vision problems, and involuntary movements. Furthermore, there seems to be a genetic link with Moyamoya as it tends to run in families.

However, do not despair!!! This article is not meant to inform you about a serious disease, then leave you in despair. I shared this information with you because it is salient to clients I treat as a speech-language pathologist, and to let you know that there is hope for individuals with Moyamoya through medical intervention.

Read my Source Link to learn more about Moyamoya and the key medical interventions being used to enhance the quality of life for those with this diagnosis.

Dr. Nikosi Darnell, Ph.D., M.S., CCC-SLP




The FIVES Criteria

Happy New Year's Eve Everyone!! 

Let's get 2018 started off right by looking at a new and simple tool I have begun incorporating into my selection process for quickly evaluating technological applications most appropriate for my clientele. The mnemonic pattern of The FIVES Criteria aids in the recall of what individuals should be look for in good technological resources. As represented in The FIVES Criteria, individuals should look for technological resources that are:

F - Fairly Priced  

I - Interactive

V - Visual

E - Educationally Relevant

S - "Speechie"

Please learn more about The FIVES Criteria by reading the article I have attached from the creator of the model Sean J. Sweeney, CCC-SLP.


Dr. Nikosi Darnell, Ph.D., M.S., CCC-SLP

The FACES Lab - Get Engaged!

Let me introduce you to Dr. Naomi Ekas and the TCU FACES (Families, Autism, and Child Emotion Studies) Lab, which studies the social and emotional functioning of children with autism spectrum disorder. As I’m sure you understand, the success of their research depends, in part, on their ability to recruit a large number of families who are willing to share their time with them.  Currently, they are trying to create a research registry so that they can easily reach and contact families for studies they may be eligible for.  If you are a family or a friend of someone who has a child with autism spectrum disorder, then this information is for you. Please review the flyer below to learn more about what you can do to help and how the program can help you!

Dr. Nikosi Darnell, Ph.D., M.S., CCC-SLP


An Introduction to Educational Technology

As a speech-language pathologist and child development specialist I am uniquely positioned to address speech-language deficits using an innovative approach. As a speech-language pathologist, I have been trained in the evaluative and treatment processes for persons presenting with a communicative deficit. Whereas my training as a child development specialist has introduced me to the intricacies of early childhood education with an emphasis on educational technology. In merging these two professional communities, I have begun to discover the benefits of incorporating educational technology in enhancing the learning processes of my clients presenting with speech-language disorders.

What is educational technology you ask? Simply put, educational technology is “the considered implementation of appropriate tools, techniques, or processes that facilitate the application of senses, memory, and cognition to enhance teaching practices and enhance learning outcomes (Aziz, 2010).” Within this definition, there are five key components that express the deeper nature of educational technology: (a) considered implementation; (b) appropriate tools, techniques, or processes; (c) facilitate the application of senses, memory, and cognition; (d) enhance teaching practices, and (e) improve learning outcomes. Each component plays an integral role in enhancing the learning process for clients, and I will further discuss each through the remainder of the article.

Considered Implementation speaks to the use of developmentally appropriate practices for the selection and implementation process of technological tools within one’s practice. The practitioner must necessarily have a pre-established protocol for assessing whether the desired outcome is achieved through the implementation of the given technological tool. If the desired gains are obtained, then it can be assumed that the given tool is appropriate for the client; however, if the desired outcome is not achieved, then the practitioner will need to reconsider the use of the given tool. The last thing we want to do is continue using a technological tool that has no positive affect on our client(s).

Selecting Appropriate Tools, Techniques, or Processes addresses our ability to discriminate between developmentally appropriate and inappropriate technological tools, techniques, or processes for our clients. As practitioners, we are constantly inundated with new technological apps and therapeutic approaches that may not align with best practices. Therefore, we have to consistently be cognizant of best practices based on current research and how the information from such can be applied in our daily practice the most effectively. One resource I like to use for deciding on which tools to select is published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC has a myriad of resources addressing the use of developmentally appropriate practices for persons working with children.

Facilitating the Application of Senses, Memory, and Cognition allows for practitioners to assist their clients in internalizing the given information as they interact with varying technological tools. For instance, the clinician may teach a given concept using various media sources that address different modes of learning within a client, i.e. auditory, visual, and tactile. Using these various approaches will allow the client to move from the surface level of learning to a deeper knowledge base. A deeper knowledge will allow the client to better externalize concepts learned in the therapeutic setting.

Enhancing Teaching Practices should cause practitioners to thoughtfully consider how the use of technology can enhance our everyday teaching practices, thus benefiting our clients. As a practitioner, we are privy to learning gaps that I our clients may present with and can recommend technology apps that can help clients fill these weak spots. Furthermore, the implementation of technological tools addressing areas of impairment may provide clients with increased generalization of concepts taught within the clinical context.

Improving Learning Outcomes is key in that if we are unable to improve learning outcomes then there is no point in implementing a given technological tool. Therefore, to justify the continued use of a given tool requires that we assess our outcomes, make incremental changes in our methodologies to address shortcomings, then assess again to determine the efficacy of our work. We succeed when we are able to show improved learning outcomes in our clients as we then have a legitimate case for continued use of technology in the teaching and learning endeavor.    


Dr. Darnell, Ph.D., M.S., CCC-SLP















Oh the Fun! And Other Takeaways from ISTE 2017

As a professional with over 15-years of experience, let me just say that the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2017 conference is the best conference that I have been privileged to attend over the span of my professional career as a speech-language pathologist and child development specialist.

Over the years, I have become accustomed to the static nature of most conferences in that the instructional design supported by the majority of organizers often appears to be a one-dimensional in the method of delivery.  For instance, a typical session at a conference will consist of a guest lecturer on a platform, likely using PowerPoint, sharing his or her insights with the audience. The lecture may last for the period of an hour with the audience being able to ask related questions at the end of the lecture. Notably, this is a commonly employed method for delivering information to individuals attending professional conferences for continuing education courses.   

Well, let me tell you, that was not the case with ISTE 2017. The dynamic approach utilized to engage audience members on multiple levels was spectacular! To engage audience members, the ISTE organization offered highly interactive courses that included Interactive Lectures, Learning Playgrounds, Poster Sessions, Hosted Activities, Educational Forums, Workshops, Learning Academies, Bring Your Own Device Classes (BYOD), Professional Learning Networks, and Social Meet-Ups.  

Course content consisted of topics addressing Digital Storytelling, Presenting without PowerPoint, Must-Have Google Add-Ons and Features, Using Lego Builds to Create Comics about the New 7 Wonders, Using your iPad as a Creation Device, Bright Ideas for Online and Blending Learning, Closely Reading with ThingLink, 360 Video VR Immersion: Taking Google Cardboard to the Next Level, The Google You Might Not Know About, Augmented Reality Books, and so much more! 

I mean, even Apple got in on the action by announcing Pharrell Williams new book Happy: A Modern Method for Writing, Recording, and Producing Music soon to be available to the public on Tuniversity. Not only was Apple present, but there was an array of representation from Google, Adobe Systems, American College of Education, Bitsbox, BrainPOP, Cornell University College of Engineering, Edmodo, Flocabulary, Girls Who Code, Kahoot!, LEGO Education, Osmo, Seesaw, and Super Duper Publications to name a few of the exhibitors. 

As a speech-language pathologist and child development specialist, I have purposed to provide my clients and their families with accessible and developmentally appropriate resources for addressing speech and language disorders in both children and adults. Over the next year, I will be sharing insights gained from this transformative learning experience with all of my followers on Facebook, Twitter (@shantea15), and LinkedIn. Please stay tuned regularly as I introduce various apps that might be helpful to you and your family.

God Bless,

Dr. Darnell  

Great Homeschool Convention 2017 Executive Function Session PPT

A big thank you to all who attended our session on Executive Function: Skills for Life at the Fort Worth Convention Center on February 25, 2017. As promised, I have attached a link to the presentation Powerpoint, and we will continue to post resources on the area of Executive Function. We look forward to providing resources (books, videos, blogs, activities) that will be helpful to you and your family in learning more about how executive function skills impact our everyday lives.

Click on the Source link below to access the Executive Function: Skills for Life session Powerpoint.

Dr. Nikosi Darnell, Ph.D., M.S., CCC-SLP and Mrs. Jan Bieniosek, M.S., CCC-SLP



Live Binder Apps for Texas GHC 2017

Take a look at the interactive communication applications on our Live Binder link at the Source link below. Glad for everyone who could attend our session on Let's Talk: Technology Tools for Students with Speech Delays

Dr. Nikosi Darnell and Dr. Rebekah McPherson

Please click on the Source link below to review the tech tools used in our presentation.

Nutrition's Impact on Brain Health

Did you know that there are steps we can take to actively protect our brain health? With cognitive deficits impacting individuals across the lifespan, it is important for us to consider practices we can implement into our daily routines that will have a positive influence on our cognition for years to come.

Now when I talk about cognition, I am referring to our ability to use mental processes to acquire and understand information presented in a variety of methods. These mental processes consist of our skills in thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving. These are higher level functions of the brain and encompass language, imagination, perception, and planning.

When we think of protecting these mental processes we may immediately generate a list of mental exercises we can implement into our daily routine to maintain and improve our brain health. Additionally, organizations, such as Lumosity, AARP, and ProProfs, provide excellent resources and online brain training activities for improving brain health! However, today I would like to talk about how nutrition plays a powerful role in the health of our brain.

Nutrition really does matter! Our brains are comprised of highly metabolic, active tissue. We need a constant stable supply of glucose, which is a simple sugar that is an important energy source. Now you might ask, "Where do I find this thing called glucose?". Well, I'm so glad you asked! 

Our primary source of glucose can be found in carbohydrates, but we have to be careful of not causing glucose levels to rise too quickly. Specifically, food items containing refined sugar can cause this to happen as the body tries to rid itself of a sudden excess of glucose. And we all know what happens when we overload on refined sugars - we have a sugar overload and crash of course! 

How does this impact the brain? Well, the brain reacts to excessive food (sugar) as if it were a pathogen or microscopic organism attacking our body. Scientists believe that this physical response may cause cognitive deficits such as those related to Alzheimer's disease. Similarly, high blood sugar, is associated with elevated cortisol (hormone), which is known to negatively impact memory function. 

In considering this information, it is important for us to know what carbohydrates (carbs) are best to eat. Instead of eating high glycemic (sugar) carbs we want to consume those carbs that are low in sugar. In differentiating between high and low glycemic carbs, we will utilize the Glycemic Index, which is a measurement of the effect of carb-containing foods on the level of the blood sugar.

The Glycemic Index (GI) has a range from 0 to 100 with a lower number indicating carbohydrates with a lower effect on the level of sugar in the blood stream; whereas, a higher glycemic number indicates a higher effect on blood sugar levels.

High GI Foods (70 or higher): white rice, white bread, pretzels, white bagels, white baked potatoes, crackers, sugar-sweetened beverages. Medium GI Foods (56 - 69): bananas, grapes, spaghetti, ice cream, raisins, corn on the cob. Low GI Foods (55 and under): oatmeal, peanuts, peas, carrots, kidney beans, hummus, skim milk, most fruits (except those listed above and watermelon), agave nectar.

Decreasing or eliminating high glycemic carbohydrates from our diet may have a positive impact on the brain health of individuals across the lifespan as we reduce our risk for deleterious disease processes (hypertension, hyperglycemia, inflammation, insulin insensitivity, glucose intolerance) that negatively impact our cognitive skills.

Dr. Nikosi Darnell, Ph.D., M.S., CCC-SLP                                                                                                                                                                                           

Executive Function Skills

You might be asking yourself "what are executive function skills and why are they so important for me to know about?". Well, I'm so glad you asked! Executive functions are higher-level cognitive skills that control and coordinate your thinking and behavior. Executive function is a business metaphor, "where the chief executive monitors all of the different departments so that the company can move forward as efficiently and effectively as possible. Who we are, how we organize our lives, how we plan and how we then execute those plans is largely guided by our executive system"(UCSF, 2016). 

Executive functions consist of working memory, planning and prioritization, organization, time management, metacognition (thinking about how you think), response inhibition, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, goal directed persistence, and flexibility.

Impairments in any of these domains may be characterized by an inability to attend to tasks for a sustained period of time, complete assignments or homework in a timely manner, follow multi-step directions, demonstrate appropriate social behavior in various settings, avoid anti-social behavior(s), foresee consequences of given behavior(s), remember a telephone number, tell a story in verbal or written form, or get started on a task. This list is by no means comprehensive, but meant to provide you with examples of key behaviors associated with an impairment of executive function skills.  

As you can see, executive function skills are essential to our everyday lives as we navigate through our daily routines. To learn more about executive function skills read the Harvard University Brief on executive function and how it impacts our educational achievement, relationships, health, economy, and policies. 

Augmented Reality for Kids

Augmented reality (AR) is a type of virtual reality that aims to duplicate the world's environment on a digital device, such as an iPad or mobile device. AR applications allow users enhanced interactions with their environments by transforming real-life objects into computer-generated 3-D images.

This is a fun and interactive way for children to learn new speech and language concepts as they explore apps such as AR flashcards, Zoo AR, LEGO connect, Earth AR, Our Discovery Island: Phonic Tricksters, and so much more!

Click on this link to see how you can incorporate AR Flashcards into your child's routine. 

A Bird's Eye View of Dementia

Dementia is a collection of symptoms affecting memory and cognition in individuals across the lifespan. Dementia is most prominent in older individuals, however, it is known to affect children and young adults diagnosed with rare diseases and conditions.

Disease processes that may cause dementia include, but are not limited to, Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington’s disease, Lewy body dementia, multiple small strokes, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury.

Dementia may be characterized by confusion, becoming easily lost in familiar areas, difficulty managing personal affairs (finances, housekeeping, grooming), personality changes, depression, memory loss, problems following directions, declining communication skills, as well as difficulty swallowing, walking, and speaking clearly.

Individuals with a diagnosis of dementia have access to a myriad of professionals who specialize in addressing impairments stemming from dementia. A professional team may include physicians, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, neuropsychologists, and social workers. These team members are responsible for assisting individuals with dementia, as well as their caregivers, in navigating through the effects of dementia.

To learn more on how you, as a caregiver, can assist your loved-one as he or she experiences the impact of dementia please read the suggestions provided by the Mayo Clinic on Self-Management by clicking on the Source link below.

The Right Hemispheres' Connection to ADHD

The connection of the right hemisphere to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been well-documented in literature over the past few decades. Research has indicated individuals with a diagnosis of ADHD as demonstrating notable weaknesses in functions of the right hemisphere. In children, a right hemisphere deficit may be evidenced in poor gross motor skills, atypical social behaviors, reduced non-verbal and verbal skills, poor reading comprehension abilities, anxiety, impulsiveness, and poor attention. Thankfully, there are many supports and interventions for parents to choose from when deciding how to best help their child navigate through the challenges associated with ADHD. Reference the Source Link below to learn more about the link between the right hemisphere and ADHD in children.   

Tips for Effective Use of Technology for Learning

Over the past few decades we have seen significant advancements in technological devices and applications available to children and their families.

The introduction of the Apple iPad and Android Tablet has provided a means of engaging children’s learning in a fun and engaging manner.

Considerably, many technological applications are advertised as being an excellent means for promoting various learning concepts for children.

Particular apps or online activities can be very effective in enhancing the learning processes of children, and many have the option to choose from varying developmental levels.

However, parents need to be informed consumers when selecting learning tools that are suitable for addressing their child’s learning needs.

As a parent, are you interested in effectively using technology to help your child learn? If so, then I have some suggestions on just how to do this.

Here are some tips to help you incorporate technology into your child’s routine and stimulate learning:

· Determine if your child learns best when information is presented visually (seeing), auditorily (hearing), kinesthetically (doing), or a combination of the three. This will help you decide what type of online activity may best meet the needs of your child.

· Help your child transfer the experiences or skills learned online by practicing them in the real world. For instance, you may use an online game, such as Turtle Diary, to help your child produce grammatically correct sentence structures. However, this concept may be further developed as you encourage him or her to use the same sentence structures when interacting with others.

· Ensure you are available to provide guidance to your child as they use the device. Although, children may be capable of independently using technological devices, such as the iPad, they are not necessarily competent users.

· Collaborate with your child’s therapist to assist in selecting developmentally appropriate technological applications to use during and outside of therapy.

· Limit your child’s screen time (including TV, computer, iPad) to less than two hours per day.





Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is such a fun way to engage clients in the storytelling process. Clients can tell their story in a digital manner the same as they would orally or on paper. Digital storytelling is simply applying one's creative ideas in a manner that allows him or her to add multimedia (video, images, and audio) to their voice. Learn more about digital storytelling by clicking on the Source link below.