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Milk Carton Theory in the Speech Room

I recently read about the Milk Carton Theory and thought about applying it to speech therapy.

Here's how the Milk Carton Theory goes.

A husband and wife enter marriage counseling because the husband views his wife as cold and uncaring. His opinion was based on the number of times she makes her morning coffee and leaves the milk on the counter. He believes her actions to be purposeful and hurtful since he does not relish warm milk in his coffee.

The counselor asks the husband to determine how frequently the wife leaves the milk on the counter to become warm. He replies that it happens nearly every day. With that, the counselor asks his opinion about the milk based on predictable events or how he wishes the world to be.

So, how do we wish the world to be concerning our clients, administration, and colleagues?

Our clients

Have you ever had a student who annoyed you whenever you saw them? We all have. They don't seem to understand what bothers us. They continue to behave in the same manner. Should we expect them to be as we want them to be, or should we expect to change our behaviors to deal with them?

My client kept touching all the materials on the table. My table. My materials. Finally, I removed the materials before he came into the room, discovering that my client was a sweet little boy.

The problem was mine, not my client's.

Our administration

Have you anticipated that the administration would reject your request? What happens? Typically, most people stop making requests.

How does the Milk Carton Theory apply to this case?

Do you view the administrator as being uncaring because they decline your requests? Do you think that they don't value you and your expertise?

Planning the meeting with the administrator before the session can reduce undesired responses. Taking the administrator's point of view toward requests can help determine if the administrator is receiving tons of requests causing other issues such as the need for substitutes. An email justifying your request and solutions to any problems you encounter can diminish a "No" answer.

Having a conversation with the administrator in which you explain how your request benefits the school, the students, and the finances can help you see eye to eye.

Slps must understand that administrators are required to be fiscally responsible as we are required to be fiscally responsible. Perhaps, taking a course that teaches a new procedure can reduce the time spent with one student, saving the school money.

Look at your situation to see if there is a way to create success for you and the administration.

Our colleagues

There is always one colleague who is not on time, never remembers when you take their student, gives disrespectful body language, won't look you in the eye, etc.

How can the milk carton theory apply here?


Teachers get involved in what they are doing and need reminders. Many teachers I worked with set timers for speech and other activities. Your teacher can't be bothered with timers. How can you provide one to make it easier for your student to exit the room? Can you put a colored flag on the student's desk that indicates that today is a speech day? Can you offer to call the classroom when the student is due to leave? Can you provide a timer for the student's desk to remind him to come to speech?


I have found that those same teachers don't want you in their room. So the only choice is to have the student leave. I have found that having meetings with the teacher and asking specific questions can help her see your plight.

1) Have you noticed that Child A has trouble saying your name, for example?- That's why Child A is in speech.

2) Have you noticed that Child A is the last to begin a project? Does he look around to see what the others are doing, and then he begins? That's why he is in speech; he has difficulty understanding directions.

3) Have you noticed Child A wanders around the playground at recess rather than playing with the other children? That's why he's in speech.


I once had to share a room with a colleague who didn't think much of me. The relationship strain took a toll on my self-esteem, willingness to partner with the colleague, and ability to see anything except my hurt feelings.

I had been reading about relationships and stumbled across a statement a wife made about her husband. The only good thing she could say about him was that the husband was "always there." He was sitting in his recliner but was "always there."

After contemplating the wife's thoughts, I tried to find one good thing about my colleague: I didn't care much for him. I found my colleague in the back of the room at the end of a conference, and I came to him and said, "I wanted to say something to you." He pulled back a bit in preparation for a biting comment from me.

Instead, I told him he always had the children's best interests at heart. His reaction told me that he hadn't expected a compliment. From then on, we weren't best friends but could deal with each other.

Giving a compliment, even when I didn't want to do so, was what I needed to succeed with a challenging personality.

We can operate without drama, fear, and anger when we see the world how it is instead of how we expect it to be. We can do the work we have chosen and help others communicate.

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