School-Based SLP Services in the Time of COVID-19
Part 1: REOPENING SCHOOLS
How to Prepare for Onsite Service Delivery
C. Materials and Workspace
Most SLPs, especially those who work with young children, are accustomed
to having wet wipes and sanitizer handy, but in the midst of the current pandemic, it has become necessary to reconsider some of our therapy materials and work spaces.
The first article in Part 1: Reopening Schools discussed the use of masks and barriers as protection from infection while providing speech-language services. The second article suggested a plan or process for cleaning and disinfecting in order to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Another important factor in preparing and providing onsite therapy is maintaining clean materials and workspace. Most SLPs, especially those who work with young children, are accustomed to having wet wipes and sanitizer handy, but in the midst of the current pandemic, it has become necessary to reconsider some of our therapy materials and the environments in which we provide services.
Consider which items might be most difficult to keep clean and remove them. Fabric and shared materials should be put away for the time being
unless you can provide individual items for each student.
Take personal items home for now.
You can put things in plastic bins with lids to reduce touching except when being used.
Set up individually designated trays or bins for students’ materials to decrease the number of items touched by multiple students.
Ask parents to send a gallon Ziploc bag or pencil pouch of crayons, glue sticks, etc. to reduce exposure and the need to clean so many materials.
Keep a large wash bin available in your room for students to deposit toys; make cleaning up part of your therapy routine.
Post signs and reminders around your room to indicate “clean,” “dirty,” “teacher-only,” “wash your hands,” “wear a mask,” and “smile or wave (no high fives).”
Invest in plastic toys, games, and items that can be easily cleaned, as well as digital resources to be used on a computer or iPad.
Using a fan to circulate the air in your room is also a good idea.
Think about alternative ways to use your materials.
If you cannot provide individual bubbles, use a bubble gun instead.
Assign each student their own container of Play-Doh.
Use photo or pencil boxes to create individual sensory bins with items that can be sprayed down or washed.
Substitute the usual beans, rice, or beads in your big sensory bin with shredded paper from the office so that it can be thrown away after use.
Use colored pencils that can be more easily cleaned instead of crayons.
Laminate items so they can be quickly and repeatedly wiped down.
Use plastic wrap to cover tabletops and board games.
Instead of moving game pieces, use folded card paper that can be thrown away after each use.
Put down a plastic or disposable tablecloth on carpets during floor activities.
Use clear page protectors to cover picture books or testing plates during assessment.
Or better yet, use activities on an iPad which can be quickly cleaned between students.
If you haven’t yet jumped on the Boom Card bandwagon, now is the time!
Whenever possible, provide therapy in larger spaces or outside to facilitate access to better air circulation.
Make creating cute, individual pointers for each student a fun therapy activity and/or collaborate with the OT to select child-friendly tongs and teach appropriate use of both.
If you travel between sites, keep a large plastic bin in your vehicle for transporting materials to reduce exposure to yourself and your family.
If scrubs are allowed within your employer’s dress code, consider getting several sets. They are anti-microbial and easy to throw in the washer as soon as you get home.
Given the continuing evolution of this pandemic, no one knows how long schools will remain open to onsite instruction and related services. Remember as you prepare and begin to provide therapy this year that most of these new routines and precautions are temporary. Keep it simple. Open status and protocols may change repeatedly and at any time so don’t invest too much time in preparing for any scenario. Plan targets and activities as if all students are participating remotely so it won’t be quite as jarring to them or require as much adjustment from you if there is a sudden switch in format. Don’t worry too much about décor right now either; select just a few positive, colorful decorations that will make your space the most warm and welcoming.
It is a school year unlike any other in our lifetimes. School-based SLPs must be prepared to provide services in new and creative ways during this unprecedented time of crisis and change in order to facilitate continued learning, maintain required health precautions, and create an atmosphere where students feel genuinely safe and welcome.
Check back soon for the next installment in Part 1: Reopening Schools,
“How to Prepare for Teletherapy Services - A. Systems and Technology.”
In the meantime, please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.