A key factor to a successful therapy program for your child.
By Nicole Kolenda, MS, CCC-SLP
Any savvy parent of a child with special needs will tell you that there are many tenets to a successful therapy program. But one crucial piece to the dynamic that is often overlooked is team collaboration. If your child is receiving therapies from numerous providers across multiple disciplines, such speech, physical and occupational therapies, team collaboration is critical.
Why Collaboration is Important
Some children receive therapy from as many as six different providers per day; that’s six different therapeutic styles and six different behavioral approaches. It could also mean as many as 30-40 different goals addressed each day. This can be incredibly overwhelming for the child with special needs, and it could also set up a situation in which the child does not generalize the skills he learns.
However, when a particular skill is targeted within each session— across different therapists and disciplines— parents notice that the time it takes to master the skill significantly improves or a difficult behavior quickly disappears. For example, when all therapists work together to eradicate grabbing in the therapy sessions they lead, this behavior, which can have many negative implications during peer interactions, can be extinguished within a couple of days. Similarly, if two speech language pathologists working with the same client jointly target a particular phoneme like “f,” a sound combination like “ba,” a syllable structure such as monosyllabic or multi-syllabic, or certain target words such as “in” or “on” within each their sessions, then these skills are attained more quickly. And, when these speech language pathologists (SLPs) share their goals at a team meeting for the particular child, the other therapists can target them as well. This in turn creates a seamless way for the child with special needs to master and subsequently generalize these goals.
Basics of a Successful Team Meeting
Successful communication after a meeting is crucial. Facilitating your group’s successful interactions, both during and in between meetings, is a matter of trial and error. Many families use a notebook in which each therapist writes a brief note after each session. The notebook generally travels with the child to each of his therapies, and it lets the therapists communicate with each other on paper. Some families prefer to set up a weekly e-mail exchange between therapists. And other families set up a Facebook account in their child’s name as a virtual meeting ground for the therapists to update each other on the client’s progress.
Remember that you are your child’s biggest advocate. In many cases, you are also your child’s voice. Be vocal about your concerns. Express to your child’s collaborative team the goals that are important to you and your family. Also discuss your child’s daily routine with the therapists and be honest about carry-over at home. And just as important, express your appreciation. When the parents are happy, the child is happy— and the therapists should be happy. Vocalize your thanks. A strong collaborative relationship is the ideal breeding ground for everyone’s success.
Nicole Kolenda, MS, CCC-SLP, is a licensed speech language pathologist in private practice on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She has supervised and taught at both graduate programs at Teacher’s College, Columbia University and New York University and has collaborated with leading developmental pediatricians. Kolenda has more than ten years of pediatric experience with a focus on children diagnosed with motor planning difficulties and childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). Kolenda can be reached via e-mail