I love to see the creativity that my SLP colleagues put into decorating their offices and waiting rooms. But as a mobile SLP who sees clients in their homes or via telehealth, I can never really join in.
How to Stay Organized as a Mobile SLP
For most of my career, my car trunk has been my office, and I didn’t even have a permanent desk until I started working for myself. As more and more SLPs transition to a mobile or virtual practice, these are my top tips to running a smooth practice on the road.
1. Create a system that works for you.
After a few years as a mobile SLP, I realized I needed to create a system so that I would always know exactly what materials I had. I got tired of scrambling to make new lesson plans for every session, and wondering if I already created something I could use for a particular client instead of making something new.
So I set aside the time to organize all of my materials into clear-view binders, which I labeled using free binder spine templates. Pro tip: Print those spines on cardstock instead of regular paper, to make inserting them a snap.
I store printed materials in plastic sheet protectors. Then I group those materials by theme, season, or disorder treated within those notebooks in my office. Whenever I buy new materials, I immediately store them inside the appropriate binder (or next to it, in the case of books or games that don’t fit into page protectors). If you’re not a huge fan of the notebook idea, you can also consider organizing your materials by theme.
For book companions or larger materials that don’t fit in page protectors, I use these mesh zippered pouches that come with labels so you can easily know what’s inside without having to dig around. For smaller items like mini objects, decks of cards, or small puzzles, this photo box craft keeper has 16 individual boxes that you can pull out and carry with you.
As far as digital materials for telehealth, you have almost infinite options for how you can organize them, but you definitely need to have separate folders for different seasons, themes, or disorders. Color-coding the folders is also an option. Whether you store everything in a cloud storage solution or on your computer itself, make sure to have a backup like a USB drive or alternate storage location just in case.
2. Make individual folders for each client.
I see clients in their homes and various daycares, so I needed a quick, easy-to-access way to organize materials for each one. It’s neither fun nor professional to be digging around for materials in a crowded trunk when you arrive at a new daycare.
My solution was this lockable file folder box with a combination lock. Inside, I made a file section for each day, then a folder for each client I would be working with that day. When I arrive at a daycare or client’s home, I can just grab each client’s folder, put it in my bag with any larger materials I need. That way, I have everything all in one place.
For my telehealth clients, I use the same system with digital folders. Each client has a folder with their name on it, and a sub-folder within it for each type of therapy material we need.
Now I run my own private practice, and this system still serves me well. Every weekend, I prepare for the following week’s sessions by pulling the materials I need and putting them in my student’s folders in my “car office” or in the digital folder so they are ready to go when they are needed.
3. Carry hard copies of important documents.
I carry a folder that has calendars for each of the schools my clients attend and the daycares I visit. I also keep extra copies of paperwork that I use frequently, like screening permission forms and handouts for parents and teachers.
I know this sounds old school. But even technology has its limitations, and you won’t have access to a printer on the road. To be safe, it’s a good idea to have backups of everything you’ll need all in one place. A ½ inch binder is all you need for this, and you can store it in your portable file box.
4. Consider keeping a planner.
I actually like using a hard-copy planner in addition to my digital calendar, and I find a new one every year. This year I bought a planner that promised to help me stay organized and productive, and so far it is working well. I also use planner stickers from Kiwi Speech to help beautify the scheduling and planning processes.
Every weekend when I am planning for the coming week, I take the time to coordinate my digital calendar with my hard copy. This not only gives me extra time to review my schedule, it also helps me spot any overlaps or other issues before it’s too late to correct them.
5. Don’t be afraid to revisit and revise!
One organizational approach isn’t going to work for everyone, so don’t try to make something work for you if it doesn’t feel natural. The best organizational system is one you’ll actually use, even if it doesn’t look pretty or make sense to anyone else.
If folders don’t do it for you, try plastic tubs or string-tie envelopes. If you’re not into using a paper planner, make a weekly calendar your computer wallpaper and keep appointments handy that way. Find what works for you—and then use it!