When I first graduated from Graduate school and scored my first position as a Speech Pathologist (In my Clinical Fellowship Year) I was working with the severely handicapped population through a county program. I had NO therapy materials, no money (um I had JUST graduated!) and my employer was only giving me a few hundred dollars for materials.
Not only that, but I had a very diverse caseload. I had children ages 5-10 and high schoolers with various delays and disorders such as Autism, Mental Retardation, Fragile X, Down Syndrome, and emotional disturbance.
Did I mention I had no therapy materials, was broke, and was starting ASAP?
It was then that I realized that I was going to need to be one scrappy SLP. I was going to need to make things and buy things CHEAP. This has stayed with me even when I was working at a district that provided me with a decent amount of funds each year for materials. I wanted to share with you where I get all my therapy materials and toys (both for therapy and for my kids!).
1. Discount Stores: I try to check out stores like Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls every month or so for toys, games, and books. (I also hit up Big Lots every couple months but I don’t find as much success at my local one). Their selections vary weekly so you never know what you might find. At Christmas time I got a BUNCH of Melissa and Doug toys for my own kids at a fraction of the price you would find them elsewhere. I am HUGE on adapting regular games and such for therapy as much as I can. For example, if you find two (or more) identical reusable sticker books for $2 each, you can buy two or more and use them for Barrier Games!
2. Dollar Stores: I find stickers, coloring books, storage containers, some toys, prizes, etc here. It is hit and miss but this is another place to get things like sticker books that can be used in Barrier Games.
3. Clearance aisles of the Superstores: Make sure to check out the end caps at Target and like stores…I have scored some awesome deals on the most random things. I also have an aversion to WalMart but I go here once in a while for things like three ring binders because they simply are much more affordable!
4. Amazon.com: I have been shopping at Amazon for years…I find books for $1.99 or a toy for 1/2 the price I saw it at another website or store. I recommend products here so often that I became an Amazon Affiliate!
5. Super Duper Inc: Super Duper Publications is a company well known in the Speech Path community. They sell a LOT of speech and language products. Sometimes they can be a little pricey, but if you subscribe to their newsletter you can get email updates when they have their 50% deals. THESE are pretty awesome. They also often have other deals listed on their home page. If you are an educator (public, private, or home) you should check out their products as they can be used with children without special needs as well. In a future post I will be sharing some of my top therapy materials and a couple are from this company!
6. Lingui Systems: Lingui Systems is another company well known in the speech path world for selling speech and language materials. I really like their reference materials like their “Source for…” line of books and I also buy testing materials here when they have them. Also, they offer FREE CEU’s!
7. Second Hand Stores: I admit I haven’t been doing this as much as I’d like simply because…have you ever tried going to a second hand store with a toddler and a preschooler?!?! They are NOT childproofed and can be cluttered. And when you have little hands who want to touch EVERYTHING? Not cool! It is easier when I can contain them in a cart However, this is a great place to pick up gently used (and sometimes NEW!) toys, games, and books for your children and/or students.
8. Barnes and Noble: I LOVE book stores. I used to take my daughter to Barnes and Noble almost every Friday morning when she was a toddler to play and look at books. (Unfortunately when I tried taking Ev he started pulling ALL THE BOOKS off the shelves…this is the day he earned his nick name Distruct-O). They also sell games and toys and I have found some fun things here that I had not seen elsewhere. Bonus? They sell COFFEE!
9. Random Boutiques/Stores: There are also the random boutiques and small stores that I will come across that have cool things. There is a local toy store here that carries SUCH fun toys and games! BUT they are pricey so I either wait for a sale or I might try to find the products I like online for cheaper.
10. Ikea: I have mentioned Ikea in a few of my recent posts. They have some great affordable toys and pretend play items there for great prices. I don’t get there too often but try to make it there two or three times a year.
11. School Specialty: I learned about this company my first year in the field. They have three main therapy/special needs “companies” if you will: Abilitiations– products provide you with solutions for balance, mobility, positioning, play, communication, sensory solutions, fine motor, and body works; The Speech Bin– products provide you with tools for children with speech, language, and communication needs; and Integrations– products help those that have sensory processing disorder, learning differences, attention and focus issues, behavioral concerns, and autistic spectrum disorder. They also have a TON of other educational products including literacy, early childhood, math, and even school supplies.
12: FREE ONLINE! I get FREE things ALL THE TIME online! Where? I’m going to share my top places to get FREE therapy materials next week! So make sure to check back in!
Just a quick note…other than being an Amazon Affiliate, I receive no other compensation for recommending any of the companies above. I will only recommend companies and products that I have personally had positive experiences with.