Red Tote Bag Chronicles

Like many speech-language therapists on the go, Miss Suleika holds a record trophy for the largest therapy bags to hit the road into home health. At the very least, I’d say about six months ago, I was carrying a trunk worth of materials. Fresh off the SNF train and overwhelmed with the telehealth-to-in-person transition, I thought I needed EVERY toy in Dollar Tree and book from the shelves of the library of little lambs within reach.

I couldn’t keep up with myself! The therapy bag was heavy, and the toy cleaning process was treacherous. My car was my moving toy and book store during the week and my reason to not carry a purse on the weekends. Fast forward to the new year, and I dropped that habit along with a good three quarters of my caseload.

The two events were mutually exclusive.

Now, I come therapy ready with my early intervention wardrobe and the simplest but brightest red recyclable tote bag with the bare ESSENTIALS. Inside of my tote bag:

2 4-inch monster trucks
4 children’s books
1 metal can with slot, and 24 plastic chips
1 bubbles

DASSIT.

I USED to carry a police car and fire truck combo instead of the monster trucks. Great, also, but beware of high stimulation and attachment. Sometimes, I couldn’t release these from the claws of my toddler clients. For the ones who were rather aggressive, the fie truck ladder was nothing but a base to swing the truck in a circle before sending it in flight across the room.

I like the bright red bag because it acts as a part of the language intervention itself. It provides structure – the child has attached this consistent visual stimulus (that’s not a face) to the therapist or the therapeutic activities, is expected to share a greeting prior to opening the bag, and some children will need to ask for help to access the bag, so that opening the bag and taking items out is a sort of reward for language use and play skills from the very moment the therapist enters the home.

The materials inside the bag don’t amount to the materials that are used, and on a day I’m moving items around in my stash, I may come across something nice to bring to a session. However, I depend most greatly on the items in the family’s homes to supplement my basic supply. WHY?

Obviously, the 2×30 mandate we meet for each child seems like a lot when it adds up to all of the other things in our schedules, but it’s less than a mere 3% – if even that – of the play, meal, and bath times the child experiences in a week long period at their homes or in their day care centers.

I realized with time, also, that most households have more than enough toys, puzzles, digital tools, and all what the Amazon marketplace has to offer for learning children. If they don’t have enough – encourage and educate as much as possible. I have brought toys and left them behind for families that simply could not, for whatever reason, stock their homes with materials to stimulate language.

For myself, it’s beneficial to have a lighter load, less waste and lost pieces from materials, and most-importantly easy cleaning and greater safety in a COVID-19 world.

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