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Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Top 3 Organizational Tips for SLPs

When I worked in a school district I was in 5 different schools every week.  I often felt like the tourists in the movie “If it’s Tuesday it Must be Belgium.”  Uh…wait. I might be the only one here old enough to remember that movie.  Well, it was a darkish comedy about tourists on one of those whirlwind tours of Europe.  Different day, different country.

My van was my office.  And by the time I drove from one school to the next and found a place to park (especially when half the parking lot was covered by heaps of snow) I was already late for the next group or class. 

So, I had to be able to find what I needed from the back of my car QUICKLY and run.  That meant color-coding.  Everything was color coded.  Unfortunately, back then there were fewer really cool office supplies with which to do this, but there were different colored file folders and plenty of highlighters.

Each day had a different color.  Each part of the day had a different color.  Each group had a different color.  You get the idea, right?  Of course, there weren’t that many different colors, so I had to do a little creative combining.  Then I actually had to remember the system.  Fortunately, I was a lot younger then and it was much easier.  Find the color, grab, and GO!

My second organizational plan sounds obvious. Alphabetize.  Categorize. (and more color coding).  I was also the district-wide diagnostician.  I did all of the district’s speech-language-communication evaluations.  Yup.  All of them.  In all of the schools.  More moving quickly.  So, each different type of test protocol had a different color.  One color for phonology, one for memory and processing, etc.  Then, each group got alphabetized.  

Of course, it goes without saying that you’d alphabetize the student folders by their last name, right?  Um, not always.  Because most of these kids were not on my therapy caseload, I had to keep them separated by date of the meeting.  Because, quite frankly, I was still in that “If it’s Monday it must be…Sarah” mindset.  
Colleagues would want to talk about Sarah before the meeting.  Sara?  Sara who?  Which Sara? So, student folders actually got organized chronologically.  When was the meeting?  When did I need to get the report written?  OK, Sara on the 17th.  Got it.

Now, all of this might seem obvious, and those of you who are old hands at school districts have already shook your heads at the simplicity of it, but up until that job I had always worked in non-public settings, hospital settings, places where I either had a set group of students and my own office space, or I was an administrator and didn’t have to worry about any of this at all!  
So figuring out a way to make tis all work was a big help.

My last organizational tip was born of necessity when my current office space got crowded out by toys.  My home office space used to be my son’s room (he’s 32 now).  It’s not all that big once you add the desks, bookshelves, file cabinets, and stacks of stuff everywhere.  

I primarily do AAC evaluations these days.  Which means lots of toys and games and fun stuff with which to engage kids.  I fully subscribe to the participation model (Beukelman and Mirenda 2005) of AAC evaluation.  So, basically I spend a lot of time playing with kids.  

Every time I set out to do an eval I had to re-pack my big rolling bag with whatever toys and activities I thought this particular kiddo might enjoy (that’s always the most important part of my pre-assessment questionnaire).

So, one day a few years ago, I got inspired.  I piled all of the toys on the floor and started to group them.  Typically boy toys or typically girls’ ?  Developmental age?  Adapted for motor access?  That last group was easy.  I definitely needed all of my switch adapted things in one place.  
The rest of the toys I roughly grouped by developmental age and usual interest.  Everything went into 5 different bags.  
Except for the one group that goes with me everywhere!  I don’t leave home without bubbles, at least 1 koosh - especially the really squishy kind - and my DVD player.

It’s much easier now to grab a bag and go.  A while I still customize - sometimes grabbing items from different bags, it is much easier to pack up and hit the road. 

So, that's how I've stayed organized.  Nothing earth shattering, but definitely useful.

Thanks to the Frenzied SLPs for hosting this blog linky!

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