I am so excited to have Sarah from SLP Toolkit as a guest blogger today! She has some awesome tips to get organized and take control of your speech room.
I am a self-professed material hoarder. I love to buy materials, and I love to hold onto materials indefinitely. I know I will never use the vocabulary picture cards from the 70s, but I can’t bear to throw them away! Part of me just loves all things vintage, but the other part of me actually thinks I may, in fact, find a need for these items, and therefore, I can’t toss them out. The problem with not letting go of anything is it gets to be very difficult to find a home for everything. Although I try, being an organized hoarder is very difficult to do, and with the minimal storage in most of our tiny therapy rooms, we can easily start to overflow. And the worst part is, I have all of these materials, yet I could never seem to find anything I needed, so I just bought more… It’s a vicious cycle.
The first step is admitting you have a problem.
Over the last few months I have taken drastic measures to take control of the speech room. As hard as it has been to let go, I have found a new home for some of my things, thrown out others, and tried very hard not to buy more (except for a few things during the TPT Back to School sale, because seriously, who can pass that up?). Here are a few changes I have made in my room that have already started to make a difference:
Don’t touch a paper more than once.
Stacks of paper, even organized stacks of paper, are not a filing system. I must have had three years' worth of filing stacked up in different trays around my room. I spent one whole day sorting, shredding, and filing things I had to keep. The one caveat to using a filing system is you must clearly label and organize files logically so that you can actually find what you need when you need it. And again, don’t throw things into a bin to file later. ☺
Take an inventory.
This was a labor of love! Using the Evernote app, I inventoried all of my children’s books! Now I know exactly what I have so I don’t buy the same book twice (or six times, like my copies of The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell). It is also amazing for planning because I can just check the app to see what books I have by theme. Here is a video I created on how to use the Evernote app to inventory my books.
Label, sort, and digitize.
In the past, there was no rhyme or reason as to how my books were organized on the shelf. This year, I have them organized by skill area or theme. I am really trying to get away from paper anything, but I can’t bear to part with all of these awesome therapy books and binders. So, instead of making a copy of something when I need it, I snap a picture of it with my Evernote app and convert it to a PDF. Then, I can use the annotate feature in the app to have the kids mark their responses or to take data directly on the document. I have also scanned some of my favorite go-to’s so that I can access them on my iPad as needed. Next up…inventorying all of these materials (insert anxious emoji here).
Have a few things within arm’s reach.
I bought this awesome hanging bag from Thirty-One, and it’s perfect for storing card decks, flash cards, flip books, and other small materials I use frequently. I also have a three-drawer organizer right next to my therapy table that has dice, card games, stickers, mirrors, tongue depressors, gloves, crayons, small toys, etc. Having all of these things right next to me cuts down on time, as I can just grab what I need quickly!
One of my favorite things I implemented is a small filing cabinet near my therapy table that has a hanging file folder for each group. This is where I store their data sheets and any materials or notes I have for each group. This way, whenever I think of something that will be great for a student or find something I want to use with the group, I can just throw it in their hanging file. I try to have lists or materials in there that target each of their objectives so that when I don’t have time to plan, I can just grab whatever is in here and combine it with a generic reinforcement activity, like a game or a craft, and BOOM! Therapy on the fly. ☺
The moral of the story...
While I am still trying to simplify and purge, there are at least systems in place to help me be more efficient. These changes, combined with the use of online systems like SLP Toolkit and SLP Now Membership, are saving me SO MUCH TIME and honestly make me a better therapist. I love that I have started this school year prepared and ready to take on whatever comes my way…
Now if only I could find a reason to play with this old game that was left in the speech room… It’s too cute to throw out. ☺