Therapy professionals who provide school-based services have to overcome communication barriers that can hinder the progress of therapy. Speech therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other therapy providers work with students at various grade levels from different classrooms and possibly different schools. There are many different teachers and parents to keep in contact with, so it is important to develop those relationships throughout the school year.
As a part of the special education team, you need to get acquainted with the other people involved in each student’s education. Reach out to the teachers, teaching assistants, lunchroom monitors, physical education coaches, art and music teachers, and anyone else who is responsible for your students throughout the school day. Once you’ve established a relationship with them, they can communicate their concerns for each student as well as provide feedback for how your therapy is playing out in other settings. Consider asking to come into the classroom for occasional observation. It’s also important to establish a rapport with each student’s parents. You can make contact by phone, email or send a letter home. Parents can communicate their own concerns about their child’s treatment plan and ask you questions. Parents can also help fill in details of the student’s history that would help you in your therapy sessions. Let the parents know that they can contact you at any time with their concerns.
Educate Both Parents and Teachers
Early in the school year, you want to ensure that both the parents and the teachers of your students understand what it is you’ll be working on with them. You need to educate the adults about your role and each student’s treatment goals so there are no surprises. While teachers have hopefully learned the difference between occupational and physical therapy, parents may not understand depending on how involved they are with their child’s therapy. It may help to define the terminology you’ll be using and try to put complex subjects into terms that are easier to understand.
Establish How Communication Will Work
After you’ve made initial contact with the parents and teachers, you need to work out how you are going to stay in touch. Will you be meeting with the teachers on a monthly basis? Will you be calling the parents each week? Establish the frequency at which you’ll send progress reports to all interested parties. Let them know that you’ll be sharing both positive and negative experiences about your sessions. Make sure that both parents and teachers know the best way to contact you as well as the best time to reach you.
Provide Activities for Students to Do at Home and in Class
Because therapy sessions are only for a specified amount of time, it is helpful to provide both parents and teachers with activities that will complement the therapy work you do with your students. These activities should be easy to implement and have simple instructions. This way, parents and teachers can help students achieve their therapy goals even when they are not in sessions with you.
Whenever a parent or a teacher comes to you with concerns, you need to be sure that you address them promptly. Therapy doesn’t operate in a vacuum and you need to keep the other adults in the student’s life invested in treatment. They need to know that they are being heard and are validated. When you respond to their concerns, they will be more likely to respond to any requests you may have for them.