Whether you are an SLP in home care, private practice, or school settings, one common ground remains constant: we all need a bag of tricks. We need to have something readily available that aids in improving attention and interest in the speech and language task at hand. This collection may be a combination of communicative tempters and sensory stimulating tools and/or visual reminders to stay on task. In my private practice world, my bag is a bright, deep, red bin that matches my office decor and sits comfortably between my seat and a wall, making it difficult for clients to grab. This bin holds my tried and true tempters and sensory items. Allow me to dump out the contents and give you a closer look at what is inside.
First and foremost, I have your ever-fancy, re-purposed slab of cardboard covered in white contact paper and Velcro. This board, which has saved many a speech sessions, is accompanied by a ridiculous collection of pictures stored categorically in a giant binder. From toys to foods to letters and numbers, you name it and I have a picture of it laminated with a Velcro dot on the backside. These visuals give several of my clients a better sense of what we will be addressing in our 50 minute speech and language session. Once a task is complete, clients remove the picture and drop it in my dollar tree bin marked, "all done." Using this system helps clients visualize and therefore comprehend how long he or she will be spending time with me working on all the hard stuff.
Next up in the bin are my son's old, monster feet. These brightly colored feet are made of a thick, durable foam and attach to cords and a handle. Clients take work breaks by stepping onto the feet and pulling up on the cords by the handles to walk about the room. My OT colleagues have taught me that these feet give clients a better sense of where their bodies are in space, which in turn helps them organize and attend. Monster feet come in handy during transitions into and out of my office space too.
Rolled up and folded in half is my two yard piece of stretchable, fabric sleeve purchased at Joann's fabrics. I used a coupon and saved a little money on this fabric, so it only cost about twenty dollars. A private practice OT, with whom I often collaborate regarding shared clients, suggested that I purchase this ready made fabric tunnel to assist clients needing proprioceptive input. Unlike standing tunnels, this sleeve allows you to push and stretch while inside. Clients sometimes crawl through this or step into it and push against the fabric while standing upright.
Not all of my goodies will fit inside my bin, so my fidget cushion rests just next to it. I have had this particular cushion for so long that I cannot remember where I purchased it. Like anything else, I am sure you can find one at Amazon. I especially like my textured cushion because it works like a balance ball without risking injury. It's not something that you would use throughout a 30 or even 50 minute session, but perhaps will come in handy for a 10-15 minute task. One benefit in using this cushion is that it helps some clients reduce the need to move about the room for a gross motor break by letting them get their wiggles out while seated.
Now, let's talk about fidget toys. I have a few in my stash that I use either as a reward choice for having completed a work task or as a fidget for keeping little hands busy while seated and listening to auditory bombardment of target sounds. Koosh balls are always popular as are putty. I am working towards having my AAC users request these items using descriptive words such as "big purple" for a large koosh.
Finally, it never hurts having some tempters nearby. My favorites are wind up toys and poppers. These come in handy at the end of a session when I am trying to finish calculating my data because they keep my little friends from pulling out toys on my bookshelf or hitting the buttons on my copier. It's also good to have tempters nearby on those days when you need to quickly shift gears because that cute craft or sensory bin may not be doing it for the little one in front of you.
What about you? What do you have in your bag/bin/container of tricks to assist your clients in attending during speech and language sessions? Leave me a comment and let me know!