In my first year of practice, I was faced with both of these situations. I had accepted a job with a contract company, but didn't know where I was going to be placed until August. Turns out, an area special education co-op had decided to create a new position, one that would travel between the ten parochial elementary schools in the area. As a new position, there were no tests or materials to use - in fact, there wasn't even an office for me to use! Luckily, they found me a desk at another school, and ordered a limited number of materials for me, but they didn't arrive until after the first three months of school were over.
Looking back, this actually was a very valuable experience, as I was forced to become resourceful, organized, and a careful planner! While it is certainly true that you can do therapy with only a paperclip, it's difficult to do that for months on end. I've compiled a handy list for others that might find themselves in a similar situation - check it out below:
Top Ten Necessities for a Beginning SLP
- Calendar - Whether on paper or an electronic version, it's essential to keep yourself organized with meeting and due dates!
- Assessments - Formal or Informal - Obviously, you will need formal, standardized assessments for initial and re-evaluation testing, but you can borrow these from other SLPs for a while. Informal assessments are vital to figure out where your students are with their goals, and to measure their progress. My series of progress monitoring tools is great for this - and how I wish I had these available 6 years ago when I was starting out!
- Computer and Printer - You don't have to have one at each site, but you need to be able to access these at least once per day. With all the wonderful materials available on TeachersPayTeachers.com for speech-language therapy (both free and paid), you can easily find materials for the majority of your caseload quickly!
- Sturdy Therapy Bag - Make sure that it's big enough to carry your essentials with padded shoulder straps!
- Paper, Pencils, & Crayons - You can target multiple therapy goals with these simple tools.
- Small Stuffed Animals (2-3) - If working with students in preschool through first grade. Great for working on pronouns, prepositions, and more!
- Simple Board & Card Games - Some of my favorites that come in easily portable versions include Connect 4, Uno, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Sorry, and Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
- Mirror - Helps when working on artic/phono. A small hand-held version works well!
- Hand Sanitizer - If you're working with kids, you need hand sanitizer!
- Picture Books - A few seasonal picture books are great for working with younger students. You can target grammar, articulation, pronouns, vocabulary, and so much more!
- iPad - Great for portability and targeting multiple goals! With apps like Artic Pix, Articulation Station, and Phono Pix, you never have to worry about carrying around the right stimulus cards for articulation or phonology, which saves a ton of time and space. Many schools may have one provided for the SLP - make sure to ask!
- Binder with Seasonal/Monthly Activities - These are great to pull off the shelf when you have 10 minutes left at the end of the session and don't have another activity planned, or for easy therapy planning. Also great when you have the dreaded, "Oh, Johnny is sick today, but you can take Jimmy instead today," when Jimmy was on your schedule for tomorrow. There are several print and go options in my store for these types of materials.
- Smart Phone - To be able to check school email, especially if you are placed at multiple sites.
- Pocket Counter - One of my favorite inexpensive tools for articulation therapy! Challenge students to see how many correct productions they can get in one session.
- Dry Erase Sleeves & Dry Erase Markers - Great in conjunction with the binder of seasonal materials. No need to make copies, and you can re-use the sheets over and over!
- Access to a Laminator - It's great if you have access to one at school, but the small, portable ones work just fine, too! This is very handy for preserving the materials you purchase online or create yourself. I've had both a Scotch brand and Swingline brand that I bought on Amazon for about $25 each, and both worked well. I buy the 100 pack of laminating sheets from Amazon for $10-15.
- Crates or Bins - Helps to organize your materials, whether they are stored in a therapy room, your closet at home, or the trunk of your car. The dollar store has some great, inexpensive options.
- Simple Reinforcers - Items such as a clip-on basketball hoop and nerf ball, bouncy balls, or a small bowling set can make sessions more engaging for your students.
- Bubbles & Play-doh - Great for working with younger students!
- Small Rewards - Sparkly pencils and fun erasers can go a long way!
What other materials would you consider "must-haves" for beginning SLPs?