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August 6, 2012 / the speech monster

Tips for the traveling Speechie

Traveling Speechies work out of their cars! Photo credit:

In the state of Victoria in Australia, most school-based Speechies do not have the luxury of a cozy speech room in their schools to hold therapy sessions and store therapy resources. We often travel to different schools everyday and at times, even have to visit different schools in a day. As a result, we often end up working in random rooms made available for that particular day of the school visit; if lucky, we get a decent sized room with a table and some chairs. Yes, *if lucky*!  I have worked in rooms full of boxes and dusty furniture, or shared spaces with creepy crawlies who occupied that turf because it had been vacant for so long. (Victorian based Speechies, you know what I mean!) Life as a traveling school-based Speechie is not easy. I did my grad school placement in the US and life there was grand; my supervising SLP had her own speech room chock full of resources that were housed there. She also worked at that school two days a week, and because she was actually part of the school, the school (and she) made every effort to integrate each other into their professional lives.

As a nomadic school-based Speechie, you don’t really feel a sense of belonging in the schools. This makes working collaboratively with teachers challenging at times. On the brief day you visit the school, your caseload is so full that you hardly have time to socialize with anyone but the students, your school contact person (often an Assistant Principal), and maybe a couple of teachers of the students you see. You live out of your suitcase because there is no speech room for you to store your belongings. That means there is little room to store tons of games and resources, unless you are ready to lug around a huge suitcase or make multiple trips to your car.

How then, do we keep sane? Honestly, it was not easy the first year I did this especially since it was *not* the experience I had in school in the US. Some days it is still tough, and I dream of decorating my speech room in the one or maybe two schools I would work in if I was an SLP in the US. (The only way here would be if I started my own Speech practice; not ruling that out!) But for the most part, I have become accustomed to this way of working and see the benefits.

Now I can boldly say: being a traveling Speechie is actually fun, and toughens you up! Here are some tips and advice I wish someone had given me when I first started:

  • Be organized: This is probably the most important skill to acquire. You need to know who you’re seeing that day, and plan your lesson(s) in advance to avoid over or under packing for the day. I guess this applies to anyone in our profession: we are constantly organizing time-tables, students’ homework packs, juggling our time so we leave room for paperwork and contacting parents and teachers…this is probably the quality that all Speechies have!
  • Get an easy to roll suitcase: You’ll want to invest time in picking out the right one because you will be working out of it. My next post shall be about what is in my suitcase. But briefly, you will find a few favorites that you can’t live without, and can be used almost universally with the kids you see. This will come with time! 
  • Invest in plastic tubs to store backup resources in your car: I carry extra board games and books just in case something last minute comes up (e.g., seeing a new kiddo that the school requested, or needing new items to interest kids – especially kids with ASD). Plastic tubs are really handy to organize your car space! 
  • Go paperless – digitize your resources on a USB thumb drive: My USB is my BFF. God forbid I ever lose it, I will probably crumble and cry. Actually, I won’t because I’ve backed up my files elsewhere. Whew!! I have a 16GB sized thumb drive that holds a ton of resources. This significantly lightens my load and allows me to print off worksheets and homework activities easily and quickly. Many of my resources are made using online or computer programs such as Boardmaker or Therasimplicity. I’ve also scanned some activity sheets from books and saved them as .PDF files. Tip: buy resources that come with CDs so you don’t have to lug heavy books around. 
  • Get out of your speech space and into the staff room frequently: This is extremely hard to do, because as regular visitors to schools, Speechies, we all know that staff rooms can be pretty scary places! Some have likened it to a high school lunch room where cliques reside and people have favorite corners: am I sitting in someone’s seat; am I “crashing” a group?? These are questions I have asked myself before when in the staff room. It’s hard to have conversations with staff when sometimes all they want to do is rest their voices. But, going out into public spaces is vital to get acquainted with people, catch up on the latest goss, and get a feel of the school culture. I have had good, useful conversations with teachers in the staff room and gotten to know them better at a personal level over a cuppa or lunch. 
  • Negotiate with your school to use their computers, printers, and copy machines: Again, this is to reduce the amount of things you need to schlep around. It’s troublesome enough to get your resource/game filled suitcase, purse, assessment kit(s), and lunch out the car; so, really, the less you have to put in your suitcase, the better. 

Any traveling Speechies out there? Do you have any other tips and advice? Do you enjoy it?

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