Cooking Up Good Communication Skills in the Speech Room

- October 13, 2018


Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember,Involve me and I learn.”  Our Founding Father’s words are just as significant and insightful today as they were in the 1700’s!   As a speech and language specialist who teaches students with auditory processing and attention deficits, I know that  “Tell me”  can be such a challenge for so many of our students; however “Teach me” and “Involve me”  through multisensory learning techniques are what we do best at The Bridge Academy.  I have the privilege of working in a school where we employ effective learning strategies on a daily basis across all content areas, as well as in the speech and language program. 

So what does a typical day in Mrs. Kesting’s speech room look like?  You may (or may not) be surprised to know that speech therapists do a lot more than just fix speech sounds.   Let me compare my job to my favorite“Everything Cookie.”  (Yes, I digress, but if you know me, you will understand the need for a food-related analogy.)  Take your traditional cookie dough batter and add 1 ½ cups of oats (vocabulary building), one cup of chocolate chips(auditory processing), ½ cup of shredded coconut (conversation skills), one cup of dried cherries (organization skills), one cup of toffee pieces (writing skills), one ½ cup of pecans (problem solving and inferencing skills), one teaspoon of cinnamon (growth mindset).  To this mixture add a secret ingredient.  Do you want to know what that ingredient is?  Strategies! Without strategies the cookies will never bake properly.  These strategies consist of a cup of visual aids and other multisensory approaches and two tablespoons of technology. Bake at 350 degrees in a nurturing environment. 

I think you get the idea! Most of my day is spent working on a wide variety of communication areas,resulting in a “cookie” that is bursting with flavor!    

Ben Franklin’s quote comes into play in my therapy sessions on a daily basis as I work to effectively tell, teach and involve my students through the use of strategies (that secret ingredient) to help them gain success.  This year I have been focusing on teaching many of my students to use a greater variety of vocabulary in their spoken and written language through a strategy called “Shades of Meaning.”   I picked up some paint swatches from the hardware store to demonstrate this concept.  We took common or “weak” words and wrote them on the lightest shade of the swatches. Then we brainstormed similar words that grew in strength, intensity and meaning and wrote them on the darker shades. These visuals are an engaging and effective way to teach my students how to use an assortment of words when expressing ideas.  We also had fun reading all the creative paint colors on the swatches and discussing why they thought the names were fitting. (We discovered that “fudgesicle” is a shade of brown and orange writing paper has shades named “roasted squash”and “apricot honey.”  Who knew paint could be so delicious?! ) 

We took the paint swatches and cut them into pieces, mixing them up into a pile and then reassembling them as we practiced using the words in sentence examples.  Teach me and Involve me were definitely alive and well during these activities!  More importantly, my students were motivated and enjoying the learning process. 

If Ben Franklin were here today, I think he would approve (while enjoying a cookie or two, of course!)   

I couldn’t complete this post without sharing my recipe for “Everything Cookies.”  Good communication skills never tasted so sweet!  Bon Apetit!

Rose Ann Kesting

Speech-Language Specialist

Everything Cookies


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup toffee bits (Heath Bar, SKOR)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and both sugars. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. With the mixer on low, gradually add to the butter mixture; continue mixing until well combined. Add the oats, coconut, toffee, chocolate, cherries, pecans and mix on low until just combined.
  4. Using a 2-inch ice-cream scoop, drop batter onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Press tops down with the bottom of a glass, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, to flatten cookies evenly. Transfer baking sheets to oven and bake until golden, 12 to 14 minutes.
  5. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 18 cookies.

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)


An Inspiring Journey That Began at A Bridge

- October 13, 2018

It started with “a bridge”….The Bridge Academy. The Bridge Academy is a nonprofit school for students with language-based learning disabilities, like dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, ADHD and dysgraphia. It is located in Lawrenceville, NJ and has been helping students “bridge the gap between potential and performance” since 2003. This is Sarah’s personal story with Bridge.

Sarah was one of the first students when the school opened 15 years ago. She was born with a rare birth defect called Myelomeningocele Spina Bifida. Her parents were instructed to christen her in the hospital right after birth because of the fear that she would not survive. They were given the grim diagnoses that if she did survive, chances were she would not walk or talk, and that there was a high likelihood of having cognitive impairments.

Not only did Sarah survive – she thrived! However as a result of her birth defect, she had several severe learning disabilities. “Doctors had to explain the binary nature of what it meant to be a gifted learning-disabled child to my parents. It meant that although I was beginning to read Romeo and Juliet in 5th grade, I couldn’t spell the word sign,” explained Moore.

Sarah continued to excel in every aspect, except reading and math. “Even though I built my own microscope at home, and had already won a science fair project that charted gene traits through several generations of pet guppies by age nine, I was performing below the 10th percentile for math skills. I had a superior level IQ and yet I was floundering in a general education classroom. I would come home for hours and cry because I knew that there was this gaping chasm between where I was academically and where I knew I should be,” she explained during her presentation.

Sarah’s mother was one of the founding parents of The Bridge Academy, and Sarah was one of the first students at the school. “I wish I could capture the magic that first year had around it. There was this little school that amazing parents and educators had fought to literally get up and running within months because they knew it was what the children in their care needed most. They rallied around a principal they believed in and a staff that had proven time and again that they were the best of the best.”

Gradually, Sarah began to progress at The Bridge Academy. There were teachers out there that could help her. She was smart, she just needed to learn a different way and found that a multi-sensory approach was more effective for her. “Through the hard work of my teachers at Bridge, I left the school reading at a 12th grade reading level and performing in the 90th percentile for mathematics.”

And that was just the beginning for Sarah. She “bridged” back to public school where she took all AP courses. She applied to seven colleges and was accepted into all seven! At college, she obtained a double master’s degree in only five years and graduated with a 4.0. And she was offered an opportunity as a doctoral candidate to attend an Ivy League University. In addition to college; she married, started a family, purchased her own home, currently works as a reading specialist, and owns her own successful business.

But for Sarah, the most important aspect of The Bridge Academy is the people who work there. “This school isn’t just a building. It’s a magic touch that imprints on a child for a lifetime.” She continued to explain: “When you invest in this school you are investing in a lifelong support unit for a child. I still keep in touch with my teachers and I’ve had friends that I made at 10 years old that I am still incredibly close to almost 20 years later.”

So, how has The Bridge helped Sarah to achieve her lifelong goals? Sarah replied, “Thanks to the Bridge, I’ve never felt less than. I’ve always known my own worth. I’ve become the type of teacher that inspired me as a child, and I am now mentoring young children who will do my math homework take this magic and wonder of learning and do even greater things with it than I ever dreamed possible. I’ve made lifelong friends that I can always depend on, even if I haven’t seen them in years.”

What a journey for someone that began life as such a fragile infant! Sarah’s journey proves how far a good education and belief in your abilities will take you, and how much you can then help someone else. As she said in her final remarks, “thank you for giving me a little bit of this magic to take with me long after I left your building.”