The “bug-out bag.” It’s an emergency kit. An ever-ready tote containing all the essentials its owner will need for surviving a 72-hour period, should catastrophe strike.

In the crisis-fraught world of prime-time television, every protagonist has a bug-out bag. Zombies and double agents await at every turn, so TV’s leading men and women keep emergency kits well-stocked and close at hand.

Bug-out bag for emergencies

A Red Cross “ready to go” preparedness kit.

While you as an SLP have little reason to worry about a zombie apocalypse or coup d’état, you do have to tolerate a certain number of treatment setting emergencies. Maybe a client in another part of the facility unexpectedly requires your attention. Perhaps it is necessary that you and a graduate intern double-book a couple of clients on a hectic afternoon. It could be that you have an itinerate position or are covering for a sick coworker. The reasons vary, but the reality never does: you must anticipate the unanticipated. You must be able to move out, to do so quickly, and to provide high-quality therapy to any and all clients seen.

Enter the SLP bug-out bag. Keeping a lightweight tote filled with versatile speech therapy materials maximizes treatment efficacy, improves productivity, and decreases the SLP’s overall level of stress. If you have yet to set one up for yourself, here are a few suggestions to send you packing:

Speech Therapy Materials in a Tote Bag

An 8 X 10 dry-erase board and marker.

Dry-erase boards are preferable to notebooks for a number of reasons. They do not wrinkle, they never run out of pages, the dark, heavy “ink” used on these boards is easy to read, and if you should find that the treatment setting is without a table, you can use the board as a sturdy, laptop surface. What I really love about dry-erase boards, however (and this is the spelling bee flunky in me) is that mistakes can be wiped away in a fraction of a second.

A zip-top bag of common items.

There are many ways in which a few common objects can be used in assessment and treatment of communication impairments. These manipulatives can be named, described, or categorized in order to address verbal expression, or identified and used in direction-following tasks if receptive language is the goal. In the interest of space conservation, the objects should be small (e.g. a key, a pen, a spoon vs. say, a toaster).

A well-stocked tablet.

Talking to younger SLPs about my experiences as a clinician in the days before tablets and apps always makes me feel like a little old woman. “Back in my day…” Isn’t it remarkable, though, how a few low-cost apps can replace bookshelves of heavy, messy workbooks and flashcards? Use the Tactus Naming Therapy app in isolation to address confrontational naming, pair it with your dry erase board to plug naming targets into carrier phrases, or use it in tandem with the common item manipulatives to address matching pictures to objects. Simple to use for both client and clinician, the ways in which these apps can be adapted to meet treatment goals are really countless.

Single servings of snacks.

Any and all healthcare facilities will certainly have water. Count on that. Anything over and above water, however – that I wouldn’t count on. If you evaluate and treat dysphagia, it would be wise to stock your bug-out bag with a two-pack of crackers, a foil-seal cup of applesauce, and a single-serving container of diced peaches. Individual packets of thickener, a couple of straws, a spoon or two, a pen light, tongue depressors, and a few pair of gloves will also be needed.

Sticky notes and a pen.

While I am not keen on carrying a large pad of paper around, small sticky-back notes are useful in providing education and follow-up instructions not only to clients, but also to the teachers, nurses and/or family members who are involved in their care.

Reproducible screeners and other forms.

If there is a facility-required form, checklist, or paper-pen assessment at your place of employment, copies of that form should certainly be stashed in the bug-out bag.

A lollipop.

Why a lollipop? Why not? Maybe you’ll need it to reinforce a pediatric client. Maybe you’ll use it for oral motor exercises. Maybe you’ll want to reward yourself with candy for a job well done. Who knows? Who cares? Pack a lollipop.

Have fun packing your bug-out bag. Please share in the comments other speech therapy materials you find essential. And whatever you do – watch out for zombies.

Ginger Anderson, SLP

Blogger Bio

Ginger Anderson, M.Ed. CCC-SLP is a freelance writer and SLP for an outpatient rehab facility in northwest Georgia. She recently published Humor in Treatment is No Joke in the ASHA Leader and writes a personal blog. She can be reached by e-mail at