Hey, you don’t look like my regular speech therapist!

July 16, 2018 BY Renee Limon

Does the idea of having a substitute make you cringe? It may be time to rethink that. We believe there are many benefits to having a sub!

You may have noticed the gallery wall in our clinic full of photos featuring the smiling, friendly faces of all the folks who work here. From the front desk, we observe kids, moms and dads checking them out on a regular basis, and talking about who they met when they first came for their initial evaluation. And who they met that one time when their regular SLP asked another SLP to take a quick peek in their mouth, or to give their sounds a listen, or to practice some jokes on. We have a highly collaborative approach in our clinic, which the clinicians all love, and benefits our clients in many ways.

When we schedule therapy, it’s a weekly, recurring appointment with the same clinician on the same day each week. It helps children build a strong trust and relationship with their clinician. That relationship allows them to set and work on therapy goals and to get to know children’s most motivating games and favorite toys. Each weekly visit builds on the last, picking up right where it left off the previous time.

Lately, however, we’ve been asking families if they’d be willing to try a substitute. Why? It’s summer and many of our therapists are taking time off for road trips, family reunions, and all other forms of summer adventure (same as many of our client families). Because we practice Work & Life Balance as one of our Core Values, we thought we’d share with you the benefits of using subs from time to time in therapy.

Kim M

Having a sub is a great way to have a more objective check-in on goals from an unfamiliar person. It gives the clinician great insight into other things to try. It’s also a great way for the client to works towards the generalization of their skills (i.e., new person, new context, etc.). Kids always love having a chance to check-out another clinician’s toys and games too!


Laura recently subbed for me with one of my clients. It was lovely to get perspective on the progress that he’s made and also to get some ideas for the next therapy targets. We took her suggestions and incorporated them into our sessions. It’s so helpful to have wonderful peers to help guide my clinical work. I think it also helps the clients to know that their kid’s progress isn’t tied to just me. It takes a team and they have options.


Here are three reasons substitutes are great:

  • it promotes generalization of skills by having a new communication partner to practice with
  • it maintains a consistent therapy schedule
  • it gets a new set of eyes on the child which may mean catching something missed and/or trying new, creative therapy ideas

One last thought on the matter . . .

Agreeing to try a substitute gives parents a chance to role model flexible thinking. Here’s an email exchange about subbing worth sharing:

Lauren: I’d like to ask if it’s ok if your child sees Laura next week instead of Lori. Please let me know if that would be ok with you.

Mom: Hi Lauren. Thanks for checking in. That’s fine! Lori is wonderful, but I’m sure Laura is as well. And having a new perspective on his articulation certainly couldn’t hurt!

Lauren: Great, thanks for understanding and being flexible. We think a new perspective is always a plus, too!

Behind the scenes, our therapists very thoughtfully consider which of their team members would work well with each child’s goals and personality. There is a lot of discussion and documentation to prepare and set-up the sub for success for their time working together. We also know that not every kid will do well with subs. So in these scenarios, we’ll suggest canceling for one week, or rescheduling to a different day on the regular therapist’s schedule. As great as we think having an occasional sub is, we know it isn’t for every child and we respect that. In the end, it’s all about putting kids first!