Having a child impacted by special needs can be overwhelming. Any given child can be receiving services for speech and language, Behavioral therapy, a psychotherapist, Physical therapy, Occupational Therapy (which today can mean a multitude of things), and if that wasn’t enough, some bozo named Brett decided to add Physical Education as a related service to the menu (Sorry? Kind of?).
When a child is receiving all of these services in addition to their education, how in the world is a parent so supposed to keep track of everyone, ensure everyone is on the same page and determine the priority the services should be considered? Don’t worry, this ins’t a post of me ranking services in order of priority. That’s simply because there doesn’t have to be one.
These services should be considered a team with one shared goal: the overall improvement of the well being and independence of your child. I think of it like a corporation. If we assume that your child is a corporation, than it is implied that there are many departments: marketing, accounting, sales, R&D, etc. All of these departments have their own areas of specialization inside the company but all operate in the best interest of the company. The companies that end up being the most successful are the ones where every department works together in complement to one another.
The problem occurs one service believes it is the end-all-be-all to the your child’s needs, when the truth is there is no such thing. I personally have seen this occur. Whether it be an OT who believes obstacle course building will be the remedy to all of your child’s behavioral issues and there should be a platform swing in every classroom, or the Special education teacher who thinks sensory integration is akin to snake oil.
If that type of in-fighting is occurring on your child’s team (and it likely occurs more often than not), than team members are more interested in validating their own service than anything else. Not only have I seen this happen, I have been someone who did this.
As a behavior specialist and teacher I had a very difficult time accepting supports from services I didn’t deem credible (and to some degree I don’t, but that’s another post for another time). So the question becomes how to do you get everyone to play nice, and what does that look like?
I sought to answer those questions as I left the school systems to build a service that would use the best parts of related services at BioKinetiX Fitness Technology. As I have mentioned previously, we are Physical Education company with a specified goal of improving the overall health and wellness of our students. I was able to combine my special education background and my behavior specialist background to form our methodology. I also knew we were dealing with movement so while I am certified as functional movement specialist, I also sought the advise and consistent collaboration with both a Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist. This created a truly integrated environment and approach. To make sure we were consistent with out applied behavior approach, I also enlisted the counsel of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to supervise and collaborate with. Now, being we deal specifically with movement, we don’t encroach too much on speech and language or psychotherapy, which is to say with our students we simply haven’t probably won’t cross paths. However, with a student or two, I have worked alongside a speech and language therapist who would use our sessions to help a student learn sequencing, story telling, etc.
When integration works as it does for us, the improvement is steady, consistent and lasting. You’re consistently taking steps forward instead of one forward and then two steps back. We employ that simple approach in regards to acting like we all work for a corporation (a good one, not a mean one). There is no hidden agenda. As a parent you have right to ensure that your child’s team is working one the same page. If they are not it will be evident who isn’t and you also have a right to replace them. Demand excellence from everyone involved.
We have streams of data to actively support correlative progress shown across areas due to a truly integrative approach.
At a dinner for Autism Speaks last night I spoke at length with service providers who all had stories of when parents would bring their child in and tell them how their child’s OT mandated that they follow her plan, so the parents were asking other service providers to do it, taking them away from what it is that they do best. That isn’t integration, that’s free help for the OT.
The Data is clear. Integration works and it produces results. Conversely, one size fits all models do not work and anyone who says they do is lying.
Interested in hearing anyone else’s stories or thought about their child’s team or if your a service provider and have any anecdotes to share!