5 Steps to Being a Successful Mobile SLP
Pop Quiz: At which of these locations do Speech-Language Pathologists provide therapy?
B) Outpatient Rehab Centers
E) All of the above
The answer is E, although many SLP's have a preference for a particular location. I've provided therapy in schools and daycares for many years, and I used to dread those days too. Generally, daycares are more crowded than schools and have more teachers who rotate throughout the day and the week. The day is not as structured as a school day, and children are often there for longer- or, just there for the most challenging parts of the day: early morning and after school. I often felt like I was just throwing paper away when I would leave notes at schools and daycares because none of my suggestions seemed to have any effect. But fear not! With a little preparation, you no longer have to dread School and Daycare Days! Here are my tips for creating successful, cooperative visits to the daycares and schools on your caseload.
Some links included for your convenience are Amazon Affiliate links. Disclosure policy here.
1. Reframe your visit
We're all busy. One year as a preschool therapist, I was assigned to 14 different sites each week. I barely had enough time to see my students at each site, let alone work with the teachers/daycare providers to help with carryover! I rushed in, worked with my students, then left some handouts as I rushed out. No wonder I wasn't seeing carryover!
Unfortunately, handouts alone are not what teachers need, and they are not going to remember what you've said 10 minutes after you leave. Clear, concise, WRITTEN information about the student's goals and needs is key. I created a Services Info page (available in my SLP Basic Paperwork Binder) that has all that pertinent information at a glance- child's name, IEP date, goals, service providers WITH their schedule and contact info, and a Strategies/Cues That Work section. I write down any important information for each session after I talk with the teacher/provider in the Cues section, and ask them to write down anything they think of during the time I'm not there.
2. Leave your contact information in multiple places
I got some inexpensive business cards on Vistaprint with my name, business name (since some students receive services from multiple agencies), cell phone number, and email. To keep your personal cell phone number private, you have a few options:
Get a Google Voice number: This is a free* (until June 2019) service that only requires a Gmail account. You can choose any available number and set it up to ring to any phone you'd like, even multiple phones. I chose one that rings and sends texts to my cell phone, and gave this number to parents and teachers. You can set Do Not Disturb Times, have voicemails transcribed and sent to your email, and more- all for free. * Although the service itself is free, your own cell phone carrier message and data rates apply, so be aware of that if some parents like to call a lot, you might have a higher cell phone bill.*
Buy a pay-as-you-go phone with prepaid minutes. This is a great option if you don't want to use your personal cell phone for work, you don't have or want to set up a Gmail account, or you don't want to worry about your cell phone bill increasing. You do have to pay for the phone and the minutes, but it can be less than $10/month after the initial phone fee.
Either one you choose, make sure the daycare director/principal and any teachers you work with there have your number, and get their numbers as well. I always check with the daycare director/principal to make sure that texting the classroom workers is allowed.
I also got some plain address labels and printed "Have questions? You can reach me at (email) and (phone number)" on them. I keep a few sheets of labels in my Speech Binder and stick them on any handouts I leave. Then, anyone reading it can email or call me with questions without having to search around for my contact information.
3. Have a central location
I know it's hard to find a central location in most daycares and schools, where space is at a premium and you might have students in different classes. In those cases, I like to leave a pocket folder in each child's classroom, and leave my business card with the receptionist or director. In the folder, I have my Service Info page and my business card. I make a few of these folders at the beginning of the year so they are ready to go, and add other information as needed. Some handouts I love to include are:
Sublime Speech's Free Parent and Colleague Handouts For Developmental Norms for Elementary Students
Kiwi Speech + The Speech Dynamic's Free 10 Speech and Language Development Myths Handout
Remember, ALWAYS talk with the teachers/daycare workers before just leaving a handout. These handouts work best when they are answering a question, not just extra paper "noise" that will be forgotten.
4. Follow up
Chances are, when you try to talk with any teacher or daycare worker, they're going to be in the middle of something. We all know that you don't retain information well if you're occupied with something else. To circumvent that, I jot down a quick note in my data collection page about what I talked about with the daycare worker, and then make sure to ask them about it on the next visit. "How did those visuals work for you? Is there anything that would make them easier to use?"
That's been a game changer for me! Don't forget that we SLP's went to school for years to learn the terms we now use daily. Anne from Beautiful Speech Life has an excellent blog post on how to help parents understand what we do and how we can help their child in plain language, and her tips apply to working with anyone. Norm-referenced? Expressive/receptive? Phonological? That sounds like Greek to most people!
5. Be humble!
This might be the hardest one of all for me, but so necessary! I might feel like I did a great job with all of the other tips, and then come back the next week and still find the visuals in a drawer or the same complex directions being used despite my attempts to have them simplified for students. It happens, and the best way to respond is to respectfully ask how you can be more helpful. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't. All we can do is our best!
And a BONUS tip: branded milestones handouts like the one below (affiliate link) are always a hit with parents and teachers/daycare workers! I leave them at daycares or at the front desk in schools in a clear plastic rack so they look professional.
My favorite milestone handouts are from Therapy Marketing Kit, which is owned by an SLP. She creates flyers, rack cards, milestone cards, brochures, business cards- really everything you need- with your brand colors, and has pre-written content that you can tweak, or you can add something completely original. Her Marketing Kits are fantastic and truly put your business on the map. If you use my referral link to order, you get $10 off any order of $100 or more.
Want more marketing resources? I made a shoppable list on Amazon so you can see what I use, all in one place!
I hope these tips helped you! Leave a comment or email me if you have any questions or tips that have worked for you!