Now more than ever, children with special needs benefit from effective collaboration by their interdisciplinary providers.  On a given IEP team, a child may have special education, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, applied behavior analysis, and more.  In many cases, several of these practitioners may see the child only one time per week.  So, what about the rest of the time when the specialists are not in?  It is our responsibility to collaborate to provide the child with as much carryover as possible.   

 

  1. Schedule designated times for collaboration: It is not uncommon for teachers and therapists to have an impromptu quick chat in the hallway.  While this gives professionals a moment to touch base, it simply does not offer the time, needed preparation, or quality of a pre-planned meeting.  Periodically-scheduled verbal meetings are the evidenced-based standard (Huang et al., 2011).  
  2. Have an agenda: Be sure to recommend a brief agenda for your aforementioned planned collaboration time.  This allows the team to prioritize needs, do any preparatory tasks prior to meeting, and share goals and ideas to make the collaboration time more effective (Hart Barnett & O’Shaughnessy, 2015).  
  3. Don’t forget about those communication skills: While we are all very busy, make the most of your time by being fully present in the meeting.  This translates to active listening; making eye-contact; asking clarifying questions; and paraphrasing to ensure understanding.  
  4. Share your role: The specific role of specialists is not always well-known by teachers, parents or other team members.  At the beginning of collaboration, define your role as related to the case.  This sets a foundation for collaboration in which other professionals will know when to consult you for ideas and strategies.  Evidence even shows that better collaborative outcomes occur when the role of therapists is known (Suc et al., 2017).  
  5. Embed your services: Embedding services into the classroom routine benefits the student, teacher, and provider!  How?  Sharing a space results in natural communication opportunities, better understanding of the classroom context for the provider, more carryover of specialist strategies in the classroom, and generalizable skills.  
  6. Use your tools:  Providers commonly use multi-modal learning strategies with children, but the rest of the interdisciplinary team can benefit from them too.  Tap into your intervention strategies and offer modeling, role-playing, coaching, and problem-solving.  When a provider or therapist can successfully carryover strategies from another specialist, the child (and the whole interdisciplinary team) benefit.  
  7. Include the child’s caregivers:  Whenever possible, include the child’s parents or caregivers for collaboration.  These valuable team members can offer insight onto strategies that they have had success with and often appreciate the ability to communicate with several providers at once.    

 

 

References:

Hart Barnett, J. E., & O’Shaughnessy, K.  (2015).  Enhancing collaboration between occupational therapists and early childhood educators working with children on the autism spectrum.  Early Childhood Education Journal, 43, 467-472.  

Huang, Y., Peyton, C. G., Hoffman, M., & Pascua, M.  (2011).  Teacher perspectives on collaboration with occupational therapists in inclusive classroom pilot study.  Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, 4(1), 71-89.  

Suc, L., Bukovec, B., & Karpljuk, D.  (2017).  The role of inter-professional collaboration in developing inclusive education: Experiences of teachers and occupational therapists in Slovenia.  International Journal of Inclusive Education 21(9), 938-955.

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