Schools across the country are faced with an increased number of students who require one or more forms of therapy within the academic day. Some students need someone to talk to because of stresses and life trauma. Other children may require assistance with fine or gross motor concerns and require the assistance of an occupational or physical therapist. A variety of speech and language concerns mean that kids of all ages may need to work with a speech language pathologist. All of these professionals are needed not only within a school district, but consistently within a building to work with individuals on a regular basis.
Consistency is a major issue for therapists across the board. Why is this so important? It takes time for the therapist to get to know the needs of each child who they work with. When working with individuals and groups they must keep track of a variety of 504 Plans and IEPs. They must stay on top of goals that change and what needs to be adjusted. In addition to this, it takes time for children to build up a trusting relationship when working with someone new. If the therapists are constantly changing, some children may reject sessions and refuse to work. They can get frustrated with new faces continually coming to work with them on tasks and skills. Another concern is that when someone gets a groove going with a child, putting a new person in charge could cause regression.
It’s understandable that there are going to be times when therapists have to change. Some may need to move or shift their job for one reason or another. Districts need to help individual schools to work on ways to increase consistency of therapists that work with children. When hiring therapists, schools need to attempt to have contracts with people who can commit to the entire school year. Emergent situations can occur, but this would be a good starting point.
To assist with this issue, schools should think about forming a committee. The purpose would be to talk about where there may be a large turnover of therapists. Is it simply the occupational therapists leaving, or is it more widespread? What are some possible reasons for this? Think as a group about ways that would help individuals within these roles to be more comfortable. Try to come up with ideas for mentoring and other supports that could be given to new therapists coming to work at your school.