Common Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child within your Classroom

April 29th, 2016

Anxiety and worry look different for and in every person. When one of your students struggles with anxiety, it can be challenging to find the right thing to say – an opener that offers support and encouragement, rather than driving them deeper into their stressful emotions. Here are some helpful phrases to get you started:

“I know this is hard.”

Acknowledge that the situation is really, really difficult. Your validation shows a child that you respect and support them.

“I get scared and nervous sometimes, too. It’s no fun.”

Empathy is critical. It can lead to a productive conversation about how you overcame your own anxiety. It also makes a child feel less like an outcast – or like the only one who has trouble coping.

“Can you tell me about it?”

Without interrupting or judging, listen to an anxious student. Talking it out gives them time and an opportunity to process their thoughts.

“Can you draw it for me?”

If a child can’t find or use words to describe their feelings, then drawing, painting or doodling may provide the outlet they need. When they are finished, make observations and give children a chance to explain the significance of their work; for instance, “that’s a lot of red.” Both talking and drawing may work better with a set amount of time, such as 10 minutes, allotted.

“You are safe.”

This is a very powerful affirmation. When anxiety overtakes them, a person can feel as though their mind and body are in danger. Reassuring them that they are safe can soothe their nervous system.

 “You are so brave.”

Affirm a child’s ability to handle the situation, and you empower them to succeed. You might follow this up by gently pushing them to “take just one more step than before” in order for them to feel as though they are making progress.

“Remember when you made it through XYZ?”

Reminding a student of a past success will further encourage them to persevere in their current situation.

“Close your eyes. Picture this.”

Visualization is a powerful technique to ease pain and anxiety. Guide a child through imagining a safe, warm, pleasant place where they feel happy and comfortable.

“Let’s pretend we’re blowing up a balloon.”

Tell your student to take a deep breath. This reverses the body’s stress response. If they panic further and are unable to do so, make it a game. Pretend you are blowing up a balloon. Try making some funny faces or noises in the process to further lower the stress level.

 “Let’s count (fill in the blank).”

Counting is an excellent distraction technique. Count the number of books on a shelf, the number of trees outside the window, or whatever other items require observation and thought, which will deter from the anxiety a child is feeling.

“Tell me when two minutes have gone by.”

Another good means of distraction is watching a clock or watch for movement. Like counting, it gives children a focal point other than the cause of their anxiety.

When you’re a school-based therapist, every day poses new challenges and rewards. To further your career and add to your professional resources, contact the Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services team today. We’d love to work with you as you build your future.

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Looking at a Few Handwriting Warm-Up Exercises

April 25th, 2016

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When you suggest handwriting practice to a child, chances are good that they will moan, groan or do whatever they can to procrastinate or avoid the issue. But, if you make it fun … well, that’s different! Now, you can pique their interest! Get them involved in activities that resemble play more than therapy – as you succeed in getting their muscles and bodies ready for effective handwriting.

Children need creative ways to prepare their muscles for handwriting tasks. The proprioception system may need to be warmed up before such activity, which requires precision, small motor movements and the right pressure on a writing utensil.

Lite Brite Pegs and Play Dough

Lite Brite and play dough are two time-tested children’s favorite pastimes. Combine the small plastic pegs from Lite Brite with a ball of play dough. If you don’t have Lite Brite handy, you can substitute toothpicks, lollipop sticks or any small peg. They should be small for maximal intrinsic muscle work.

  • Have students grab a handful of pegs from a tabletop surface. They will have to work on their in-hand manipulation skills as they move the pegs to their fingertips. Then, instruct them to place as many pegs as possible into the play dough. The resistance of the dough provides feedback for the proprioception system, making this a great warm-up activity.
  • Once a student has pushed all the pegs into the dough, ask them to stretch their fingers by spreading them as far apart as they can. Keep those muscles supple and ready to go when it’s time to pick up a pencil and practice writing.

More Warm Ups

Writing can be challenging for many children, so working the hand muscles in a relaxing way can be a tremendous boost. Try these additional exercises:

  • Finger push-ups: Have students spread their fingers far apart, and then press their fingertips onto a table surface and push down. Then, have them raise their hands and arms above their heads and stretch their entire upper body. A little rhythmic music might be a nice addition.
  • Play dough snakes: Children roll play dough into small balls and then into long snakes. Then, they press a pencil into the snake and cut on the lines with scissors. They should end up with several small pieces of dough.
  • Rubber ball and hand squeezes: This works as students squeeze rubber balls or squeeze their hands into fists and then stretch out the fingers and wrists.
  • Wall push-ups: Students place both hands on a wall and then push away from it. This engages the whole arm in a pre-writing exercise.
  • Pick-up sticks: Remember these? You can even make your own using dyed lollipop sticks.
  • Sticker play: Stick very small stickers down the length of a pencil. Have students start at the eraser end and work their fingers down the pencil as they pinch at each one of them.

Who knew handwriting warm-up could be so much fun?

As you continue to build your school-based therapy toolkit – or, as you seek to take your career to the next level – contact the experts at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. We’d love to share our resources, expertise and contacts to help you make it happen!

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Tips & Best Practices on Minimizing Stuttering Among Preschoolers

April 20th, 2016

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Treatment for preschoolers who stutter is quite different from treatment for older children. In preschoolers, the primary goal is to help children develop normally fluent speech, to prepare them for success in later life. A comprehensive approach includes both child and parent-focused strategies, as the home component is essential in order for progress to be made.

How to Respond to Preschool Stuttering

Look for signs such as:

  • Avoidance of words
  • Increased physical tension
  • Reduced word utterance length
  • Changes in pitch or loudness during stuttering episodes

Respond in a supportive manner that helps to minimize the likelihood that a child will develop lasting negative reactions to their stuttering.

  • Speak with children in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. Your own slow, relaxed speech will be more effective than any advice, such as “slow down” or “try it again slowly.”
  • Reduce the number of questions you ask. Children speak more freely if they are expressing their own ideas, rather than answering an adult’s questions. Instead of asking questions, simply comment on what a child has said, thereby letting them know that you heard them.

Treatment Approaches

Treatment approaches to stuttering in preschoolers may be indirect or direct.

  • Indirect treatment is based on the concept that children’s speech is influenced by the interaction between their speaking ability and their environment. While environmental factors do not cause a child to stutter, they may make it more likely that they will exhibit increased or decreased stuttering in certain situations. Indirect therapy consists of parent education and training in order to make communication changes at home. Parents learn more about normal language and fluency development, as well as stuttering and the conditions that may sometimes exacerbate it.
  • Direct therapy methods have gained popularity in recent years. With these approaches, children are specifically taught to produce more fluent speech through modeling of easier speaking styles or feedback about their fluency. The decision to use more direct therapy depends on a number of factors, such as the amount of stuttering that is seen over time and the impact it is having on a child’s attitude toward communication.

Every child is different, so different approaches may work better for some children than for others. Therapy must be developed and modified to meet each child’s specific needs.

As you continue to build your school-based therapy career, consider working with Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. We are therapists ourselves, as well as experts in recruitment and professional development. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

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Core Strengthening Exercises for Kids? Why it’s More Important than You Think

April 13th, 2016

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Development skills for children build on one another. Core strengthening – the development of the torso muscles that stabilize, align and move the body’s trunk – is essential for the normal progression of other skills. The core is the center of control for everything else the body does.

Core strengthening begins in infancy, as a baby experiences “tummy time.” When lying on their tummy, babies learn to lift their heads, which in turn helps to strengthen their neck and upper back muscles. This prepares them for such developmental milestones as rolling over, crawling and sitting up independently.

Without core strength, it becomes difficult to balance, perform coordinated movements on both sides of the body, sit up straight, hold on to a pencil, control scissors, or even jump. Decreased core strength contributes to other problems including W sitting and delayed motor skill development.

Effective Core Strengthening Exercises

The core muscles are those in the abdomen, pelvis and back. The key to getting children to work on strengthening these muscles is to make it fun. Treat it like a game. Issue a challenge and give each activity a playful purpose.

For elementary school-aged children, one of the best ways to develop core strength is through good, old-fashioned outdoor play. This includes running, jumping, crawling and exploring in an unstructured environment. The following activities also are beneficial:

  • Swinging – without anyone pushing.
  • Crab walking.
  • Playing tug of war.
  • Bouncing on an exercise ball or a trampoline.
  • Playing Twister.
  • Crawling through a tunnel.
  • Climbing a ladder on a slide or jungle gym.
  • Riding a bike.
  • Skating.
  • Swimming.

Here are some additional core strengthening exercises for children:

Bridging

Have a child lie on their back with their knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Have them push through their heels to raise their bottoms off the floor. Be sure they are keeping their head and shoulders on the ground. Have them hold this bridge position.

Superman

For this exercise, a child likes on the floor like a superhero and tries to lift their arms so that their upper chest also comes up. You can make it more fun by having a child reach up for you to hand him pieces of a puzzle or stickers to place on a poster board.

Plank

Have a child lay on their stomach with their hands flat on the floor at shoulder level and their toes on the floor. On the count of three, have them push up on their hands to straighten their arms and life their whole body off the floor. If lifting their entire body is too much, have them drop their knees to the floor for support.

Wheelbarrow Walking

Again, have children lie on their stomach on the floor. While you hold their knees or ankles, have them walk with their hands forward 10 steps and then backward 10 steps. Can they walk forward to a ball and put it in a basket with one hand? How long can they hold this position?

For additional information and ideas to advance your school-based therapy practice – or access to the best therapy job opportunities currently on the market – turn to the expert team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

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Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services Named as a ‘Top Workplace’ in Atlanta

March 30th, 2016

Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services is pleased to announce that it has been selected as one of The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Top Workplaces in Atlanta for the fifth year. The pediatric staffing firm, which is based in Kennesaw, Georgia, ranked 8th in the midsize workplaces category out of 50 businesses. This is the first year Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services moved from the small workplace category (149 or fewer employees) to the midsize category (150-499+).

“The Top Workplaces award is not a popularity contest. And oftentimes, people assume it’s all about fancy perks and benefits.” says Doug Claffey, CEO of WorkplaceDynamics. “But to be a Top Workplace, organizations must meet our strict standards for organizational health. And who better to ask about work life than the people who live the culture every day—the employees. Time and time again, our research has proven that what’s most important to them is a strong belief in where the organization is headed, how it’s going to get there, and the feeling that everyone is in it together. Claffey adds, “Without this sense of connection, an organization doesn’t have a shot at being named a Top Workplace.”

“We are extremely proud to receive this recognition that is based on employee feedback for the fifth time,” said June Whitehead, Owner and CEO of Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. Our continued focus on our company culture and values has created an environment of teamwork, mutual respect and doing what is right. I want to thank all of our amazing therapists and team members for their confidence in Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published the complete list of Top Workplaces on Sunday, March 27, 2016. For more information about the Top Workplaces lists and WorkplaceDynamics, please visit www.topworkplaces.com and www.workplacedynamics.com.

Founded in 1989, Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services has been providing a range of therapy services for children, including speech language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and school psychology to school systems across the United States for 27 years. The firm currently serves Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. For more information on Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services, please visit www.cobbpediatric.com.

Creating a 30-Day Happy Teacher Challenge

March 30th, 2016

No matter how fulfilled and happy you are with your school-based therapy career, it can get stressful at times. The potential for frustration, disorganization and burnout is always lurking.

There’s a great new resource called the 30-Day Happy Teacher Challenge, which doesn’t cost a penny and can reap long-standing rewards. It will help you to better connect with your students, build staff rapport, get organized, and improve your health and general outlook on life.

The Challenge can be done by yourself, with students or with colleagues, both on and offline. It is designed so that any educational professional, at any grade level, can participate. You can join the online Challenge community by posting content and images at #teachhappychallenge.

A Taste of the Challenge

Here are some samples of daily tasks listed on the 30-Day Happy Teacher Challenge calendar:

  • Pull a student asked to tell them how much they have improved or how proud you are of them.
  • Spend 10 minutes organizing an area that has become a bit chaotic, whether it’s a drawer, a desk, a bookcase, etc.
  • Take a walk during your lunch break or after school. Don’t focus on your to-do list or the problems you are facing. Instead, think about the things in your life that make you the happiest.
  • Make a conscious effort to smile more today – especially at those students who aren’t having a great day. Smiles tend to be contagious.
  • Organize your computer desktop. Make and title file folders (Windows: right click + New + Folder. Mac: Control + Click + New Folder) and put your documents in them.
  • Make a colleague or staff member’s day by doing something nice for them. Bring them a coffee in the morning, put a little treat in their mailbox, or do something else thoughtful to bring a smile to their face.
  • Greet your students at the door and give them high fives as they enter. If they are in high school, they will probably roll their eyes, but they will secretly think you are awesome.

Another challenge is to use a Twitter-inspired exit pass at the end of your session to see what your students have learned.

Download and print the 30-Day Happy Teacher Challenge calendar, keep it handy, and do your best to accomplish the daily recommended tasks.

For additional resources to add to your school-based therapy tool kit, contact Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today. Let us know what we can do to help you achieve your goals and take your career in the right direction.

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Speech Therapy Apps: Asking Therapy

March 23rd, 2016

Speech Therapy Apps: AlphaTopics AAC
Children who have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are often limited in their ability to uncover new information, ask for clarification, or request assistance. In short, they struggle to ask questions that can help them succeed in many common activities of daily living.
The Asking Therapy app from Tactus Therapy provides four unique activities to help users understand and practice proper verb tenses for yes/no questions and to select the correct wording to being Wh- questions.

Goal Areas

Asking Therapy can open new communication doors for students with aphasia, TBIs, autism and Asperger Syndrome, Down syndrome, special educational needs, language disorders and English as a second language. Goal areas include:• Asking questions.

  • Asking questions
  • Verbal expression
  • Grammar
  • Auditory and reading comprehension
  • Pragmatics
  • Reasoning
  • Conversation

The app features user profiles, data tracking and customization, along with receptive, expressive and generator response modes. It is priced at $19.99 and available for download onto your iPad, iPad mini, iPhone or iPod touch. It is included in Question Therapy and bundled in the Tactus Question Therapy Toolkit.

Benefits for Speech-Language Pathologists

Asking Therapy is ideal for both independent and guided practice. Its User Hub tracks multiple users and scores over time. Among the app’s addition user-friendly benefits are:

  • A focus on the often-neglected skill of asking questions. You can start with the Investigative activity and then create your own unique activities with the Question Spinner.
  • Exercises that help focus on syntax for children with aphasia. The Generator response mode lets your students exercise grammar silently. They can progress one level at a time as you improve sentence structure.
  • Functional, real-life situations that encourage problem solving. Yes/no questions encourage children to find out various pieces of information. Wh- questions let them fix breakdowns by asking for any information that they missed.

“A Must Have”

Speech-language professionals who have tried Asking Therapy give it rave reviews. As noted by Rachel Jones, SLP, of Smart Apps for Kids, “The fact that it takes a concept that is difficult for many children and adults alike to master, it is highly user-friendly, and goes above and beyond the task at hand gives it big props in my book. A must-have for speech-language pathologist!”

As you look to build your school-based speech pathology career – or find your next great job opportunity – turn to the expert team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. We are therapists ourselves, and we offer a wealth of experience, contacts and resources to help you achieve and exceed your professional goals. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

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Tips for School Psychologists: Warning Signs of Mistreatment at Home

March 16th, 2016

The statistics on children who have been mistreated are heartbreaking. According to recent research, one in 10 youngsters have experienced some form of maltreatment.

Educators and school faculty members are in a unique position to recognize and respond to signs of child abuse, neglect and mistreatment. There may be outward physical signs. But there also may be changes in mood or behavior that are apparent only to those closest to a child.

Especially among younger students, the ability to articulate what has happened to them may be difficult or impossible. And even teenagers may not understand that it is illegal for an adult to be sexual with them or for a parent to abuse them. When the abuser is a loved one, the dynamic can cause a great deal of conflict and lead a victim to deny or hide the situation.

Physical Abuse

Common physical indicators of abuse include:

  • Suspicious wounds such as surface injuries, the imprint of an instrument, burns, wrapping or bondage injuries, and unusual bruising patterns.
  • Multiple wounds in different stages of healing.
  • Bruises in clustered patterns.
  • Injuries that are more apparent following weekends, school holidays or absences.
  • Questionable fractures, especially to the nose or face.

Behavioral signs that may be related to physical abuse are:

  • A child who is unable to tell you how they became injured or those who tell a story that is not believable in relation to an injury.
  • Extreme aggressiveness – or the opposite: a child becomes unusually withdrawn.
  • A student who is jumpy, on edge or fearful.
  • A child who is uncomfortable undressing in front of their peers.
  • A youngster who seems overly eager to please or is wary of adults.
  • A student who is afraid of their parents, frightened about going home, or terrified about getting into trouble.

Sexual Abuse

Physical and behavioral signs of sexual abuse include:

  • Complaints about headaches and sickness.
  • Pregnancy in younger adolescent or pre-teen girls.
  • A sudden change in behavior.
  • Running away.
  • Depression or suicidality.
  • Regression to more childlike behavior.
  • Changes in relationships to adults, such as becoming more clingy – or more avoidant.
  • Lower school engagement and/or achievement.
  • Demonstration of sexually provocative behavior or promiscuousness.
  • Frequent talk about friends who are unusually older, or about having sex or being touched.
  • Extreme avoidance of undressing or any physical contact.

Neglect

If a child is neglected at home, these red flags may be apparent:

  • They may be gaunt or underweight or have a bloated stomach or pale, flaky skin.
  • They may present unattended health concerns, such as skin infections or coughs.
  • Their hygiene may be consistently poor.
  • Their clothes may be inappropriate for the weather; for instance, they come to school without a jacket in cold weather.
  • They are frequently very hungry or extremely fatigued. They may even fall asleep during school.
  • They beg or steal, either food or property.
  • They come to school early and leave late. They may come right out and say there is no one at home to care for them.
  • They are clingy.
  • They are depressed.

For additional resources and guidance as you build your school-based therapy career, contact the Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services team today. We can help you find your next great job or continue along your career path of learning, development and improvement. As therapists ourselves, we look forward to partnering with you.

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Using Silly Putty in the Classroom to Improve Fine Motor Skills

March 9th, 2016

Improving Fine Motor Skills | Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services

Fine motor activities encompass many routine functions – and they can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to handle daily tasks. Silly Putty – which is so much fun that even its name makes you smile – can be used in a number of ways to help your students enhance their fine motor strengths.

Silly Putty really isn’t so silly at all. It’s inexpensive, it’s portable, and it’s relatively mess free. You can even use this recipe to make your own.

Put it to Good Use

Use these activities to incorporate Silly Putty into your classroom therapy routine. You’ll help your students to develop their fine motor skills, as well as their coordination, spatial awareness and emotional regulation:

Squeeze And Manipulate

Squeezing Silly Putty and creating different shapes with it is an excellent deep pressure activity. It provides sensory input, which relieves stress and can help keep students on task if they are prone to becoming distracted.

Retrieve Small Objects

Fold coins, buttons and other small objects into Silly Putty, then have your students work to get them out.

Make Confetti

Have your students see how much “confetti” they can break their Silly Putty into, using their thumb and index finger. Have them use the last remaining piece of putty to pick up all the others and roll them into a ball.

Roll “Snakes”

Have children roll Silly Putty into “snakes” and then twist them into other shapes. This is a great way to work on developing dexterity.

Stamp

Stamping involves fine motor work – and it also builds literacy. Have your students use letter stamps to practice sight words. At the same time, they will use their hand muscles and benefit from tactile input. Stamping activity is fun, and it also provides heavy, resistive work to help children stay focused. Stamping words and then smoothing them out again works many different skills.

More On Smoothing

Smoothing Silly Putty into a contained surface, such as a plate or a container lid, works many different hand muscles and provides a great tactile experience. Once Silly Putty is smoothed, you can work it into other activities. In addition to stamping, these include writing in it using a pencil or wooden skewer, or using beads to create words and pictures.

Play Doll Dress Up

Have your students create doll clothes using putty. This activity tends to work for younger children and those with low muscle tone, who may tire more easily. It is play based, but it still works for building hand strength and dexterity.

Speaking of Play …

Here are some additional ideas which tie therapy into playtime. Shhh … don’t let on that the two are tied together!

Have Students Play The Imprint Barrier Game

This game is played in pairs. One child imprints a small item into a smoothed-out piece of Silly Putty, while their partner isn’t looking. The second player then guesses which object made the imprint. This can be as simple or difficult as you want it to be.

Make Ice Mold Shapes

Have your students push Silly Putty into chocolate or ice molds to create various shapes. The action of pushing putty into molds and then extracting it is a great skill-building activity.

For additional ideas, tools and resources to enhance your school-based therapy career, turn to the experienced professionals at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. Contact us today to learn more.

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How to Shine During Your Next Interview

February 25th, 2016

Job Interview

Congratulations! You’ve landed an interview for your dream job!

There’s a lot riding on it – and you want to be your best self when you make that critical first impression on your potential employer. How can you give a naturally confident, wining presentation that truly allows you to shine?

Here are some tips:

Do Your Homework

Amass as much knowledge as you can about your prospective school or company, as well as those who will be interviewing you. Start with the organization’s website and then expand your reach well beyond this starting point.

  • Use Google and other sources. Find relevant press releases. Talk with current or former employees. Get the specifics on company or school goals, initiatives, developments and services. This shows you are proactive, with an eye for detail. It also demonstrates that you are not only excited about the position, but also organized and well prepared.

Practice Ahead of Time

Anticipate the questions you may be asked. Then, find a trusted friend and rehearse your responses in advance of your interview. This practice will help in putting your pre-interview jitters to rest.

Your response should not sound rehearsed – just enthusiastic, natural and concise. A few common sample questions may be:

  • “What is your greatest weakness? What have you done in past situations to overcome it and be successful?”
  • “Why are you leaving/why did you leave your current/former position?”
  • “Why should we hire you?”
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Present a Professional Image

A job interview is not only about how you answer questions. It also gives an employer a chance to see how you present yourself and to get a sense of how you would fit into their organization.  

  • Be punctual. If an emergency comes up, relate the information immediately, so your interviewer knows that you are responsive and a strong communicator.
  • Dress for success. Choose an appropriate outfit that is a notch above what you would wear on the job. Take stock of your appearance and the message it sends. Show that you realize and fully appreciate the importance of the interview.

Have a Compelling Story to Tell

When selling yourself to interviewers, tell a story that holds their interest and demonstrates your unique qualifications for the position.

  • Describe specific examples of your success and achievements. It is these stories that will enable you to stand out. Use numbers, percentages and other quantifiable facts to strengthen your case.

Maximize Your Online Image

Prospective employers will search for you online and take a hard look at what they see. A professional online image is more important today than ever before.

  • Clean up your social media presence. Post interesting, relevant, helpful content. Delete – or ask others to delete – anything that may be questionable.
  • Be consistent with your content. Whether it’s on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or your blog, be sure you provide information and images that align with your desired message.

Do you need additional guidance as you take your career to the next step?

You may be at square one, browsing for new opportunities. Or, you may already be well into the interviewing phase. Working with a specialized recruiter from Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services will help you to enhance your chances of success – and make you feel more relaxed and prepared the next time you’re in the interview hot seat. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

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