Collaboration between families and school staff is an essential component to effective educational programming for students with disabilities. As therapists within the school setting, we ensure that the students are able to access their school environment and their curriculum. We value the input provided by caregivers in order to ensure that the program is family-centered. Furthermore, research has shown that as early as the infant and toddler years, a model of using a primary service provider approach to teaming is an ideal method of support for children with disabilities. The goal of this model is to build the capacity of the caregivers/family to support their child through ongoing collaboration with the early intervention team to address areas of development.

As children move beyond the early intervention years toward school-aged years, the multidisciplinary team–special educator and other professionals such as occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech language pathologist and psychologist–is necessary for assessing, planning and implementing an educational program that meets the needs of the student. As the caregiver/family member, it is crucial to continue the open lines of communication in order to attain successful outcomes.

With this said, what tips are suggested for our families?

• Focus on communication and building positive relationships among members of the team, particularly the primary service provider at the early intervention years. Continue open dialog across your child’s lifespan through the school age years with your case manager and other professionals on the team.

• Seek supports and programs that may promote play activities with same-age peers without disabilities. Seek outside resources that may enhance and provide for inclusion in the community.

• Seek out potential friendships with children within the neighborhood/community.

• Use the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) to focus on multidisciplinary goals/objectives that work toward increased academic, communication and functional participation skills. Actively collaborate with the multidisciplinary team in the development of the IFSP/IEP.

Inclusion within the general education setting, particularly when considering students with severe and multiple disabilities, has its challenges. Services and supports within an inclusive educational setting are considered critical factors in the delivery of a quality educational program. Interaction between students with and without disabilities is deemed an important component in building successful participation in later years beyond school. With this said, what tips are suggested for school personnel when it comes to fostering inclusive opportunities?

• Develop classroom environments that integrate same age peers with and without disabilities. • Integrate school resources for all students.

• Collaborate with general education/special education teachers and therapists in meeting the unique needs of the students in all areas of the IEP.

• Work amongst therapist(s) and classroom staff in order to ensure meaningful opportunities throughout the school day for fine motor and/or gross motor/functional mobility skills.

• Include all students in programs and activities within the school environment.

Certainly, such tips, whether they be for the caregiver/family, school personnel, personnel in community-based programs can be viewed as tips for ALL in terms of awareness from each other’s points of views. Remember: we are in this together when it comes to enhancing and promoting a brighter future for ALL our children as they move into the adult years. We want all our students to thrive and learn, and working together as a TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) will make a difference!

References

Fact Sheet, Using a Primary Service Provider Approach to Teaming, American Physical Therapy Association, 2013. Hardman, M, Drew, C, Egan, M (2013). Human Exceptionality. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning.