February 27, 2014

Five essentials for new school based SLP clinicians

When I began my journey into this profession and a new school, I found myself entering into a classroom with some very basic materials.  Much of the time I've spent so far this school year has been either collecting resources or making them myself.  Such lengthy processes! It got me thinking about the elements that I, personally, as a new clinician, have found to be quite effective to my situation.

I've heard it spoken often enough that the best, most seasoned clinician can conduct therapy with barely the slightest of materials on hand and I do agree with that, to an extent.  I've been in situations where I was armed with a pen/pencil, notepad, and a game dice and I was able to produce engaging practice while making it enjoyable for the client (the dice can be a great reinforcer, when paired with a simple game of "whoever-scores-20-wins" approach that can also emphasize turn-taking skills, counting, following directions, etc).  Of course therapy can be effective with even the most basic of materials… but I truly believe, especially in a school setting where I might have a small group of students (many of whom might be focusing on various, differing skills at the same time), that having a good 'arsenal' of materials to select from can be very beneficial to keep the pacing interesting and stave off boredom, especially with the very little ones.

That being said… I will list for you (my opinion) of the following recommendation of what I consider to be the top 5 products/items that I have considered to be essential "MUST-HAVES" for a new clinician.  Something to keep in mind is that my personal demographic is for intermediate level school-based students. Here they are in no particular order:

1.  Laminator
As a new clinician with limited supplies that were already in place for my job, I found myself making a LOT of my own therapy supplies to fill in the missing gaps. Having a laminator on hand makes it so easy to create custom therapy materials and then preserve them for increased durability.  My laminator was not expensive at all and well worth the money.  I actually purchased it as a graduate student and used it during each of my clinical placements.

2. iPad
I know… iPads are expensive and not every job site will provide one for staff, but they truly are a wonderful therapy tool to use in a pinch to target a multitude of goals for every need.  I think iPads have a time and place for effective use, and I find that I prefer a mix of old-school vs. new tech approaches really balances out my therapy.  I don't always use an iPad, mainly because I don't want my students to get in the habit of solely interacting with it.  There are apps for language, pragmatics, articulation, autism, AAC… you name it, they are out there.  I can honestly say that my iPad was my #1 lifesaver as a new clinician because I could download purchased or free apps instead of making materials, which saved me considerable time in the first few months of work.  In a new work environment, that saved time really adds up!

3.  Basic board games/game elements as reinforcers
Collect a few basic board games like CandyLand, Critter, Don't Break the Ice, or Headbands to spruce up a therapy session and promote turn-taking and target social pragmatic skills through game interactions.  Break up monotonous articulation drill by offering game turns in-between drill sets.  Trust me, your students will thank you.  Scour flea markets or yard sales for the best deals on game sets, or check out Goodwill or thrift stores for additional sources.

4.  Dry erase board/marker
This is probably my second-favorite therapy tool!  I love to use it to reinforce what I am lecturing about, draw (rudimentary) pictures to better give a visual aid to descriptions, or allow students to practice grammatical skills we've been targeting, to name only a few.  I'm not sure why I prefer a dry erase board over just a standard pen/paper combination, so perhaps this is just a personal preference.

5. The Basic Manual for Speech and Language
I found this book at an ASHA convention (Atlanta 2012) during graduate school and it has proven to be a fantastic resource for language, articulation, and many other skills depending on how you use the included picture resources throughout the book.  I've used it in class as a lecture device and as homework worksheets, and I think it is a very valuable tool for a new clinician since it has a little bit of everything inside.

You can find other materials at the following websites:
SuperDuper, Inc
Teachers Pay Teachers

Happy hunting and I hope you found this compilation of materials to be helpful to you as you begin or continue your clinical journey!

February 20, 2014

Classroom Update

Hey there fellow speechies!  I've been so immersed in my new CF placement as an intermediate school (4th, 5th, and 6th grades) SLP-CF that it has been difficult for me to find time to update this blog regularly, but fear not… now that I have a few months of this job under my belt, I've found that I have finally hit a good stride where I don't feel like I am constantly playing catch-up.

Here are some photos of my near-finished classroom:

It was very challenging to get everything set up in a functional way since the semester was already in full swing, but I managed to get most things in place and add some cute decorations so that it has a really cozy feeling to it.  I'm not 100% done, and there's a lot more I'd like to add to it by way of organization, but it is a start!

Also, I've got a post that is 90% completed about my top 5 resources to collect as a new clinician, so stay tuned! I can't wait to share some of the things I've learned these past few months as I started my new career.