Enhancing Collaborative Between Teachers, Parents, and Occupational Therapists in Schools

by Howard Gerber on May 12, 2016

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collaboration therapists parentsIf you’re an occupational therapist working in a school setting, you know collaboration between teachers, parents, and therapists is vital to the success of the student. It’s important for occupational therapists to remember that it takes a team effort to ensure maximum benefit for each student.

So how is effective collaboration defined? Collaboration may involve different things in different situations. But in general, it means working together for the common goal of helping the student reach their potential academically and socially.

Why Collaboration is Important in a School Setting

When parents and teachers work together with therapists, they can help identify areas a child needs to work on and also reinforce therapeutic strategies. A student only receives OT services in school a few hours a week. The rest of the school day is spent with teachers. In addition, the majority of a child’s time is spent with their parents or guardians. It makes sense to collaborate with teachers and parents, since they spend a lot more time with a student than an occupational therapist does.

Also, when parents feel part of the process, they can offer suggestions and may also feel motivated and encouraged that their child is getting the help they need. Children take cues from their parents. This motivation and encouragement can rub off on their child.

Barriers to Collaboration

Although it makes sense to work together with teachers and parents, there may be barriers that pose challenges to successful collaboration. The most common barrier is poor communication. Poor communication may involve failing to explain goals and therapeutic techniques or not providing updates on how students are doing.  Although IEP meetings are held yearly, communication is needed in between meetings to make sure parents, teachers and therapists are all on the same page.

When it comes to collaboration with parents, language barriers may also present challenges for occupational therapists. As an OT, be sure to utilize all services at your school to assist with communication, such as translators.

Basics of Effective Collaboration

In order to promote effective collaboration, it’s essential to take several things into consideration. For example, therapists should always be respectful of roles and responsibilities, along with differences of opinion and personality.

Whether communicating with parents or teachers, occupational therapists need to be direct and clear in what they say. It’s important to be honest and also show a caring demeanor. Collaboration does not mean a therapist is the boss. Parents, teachers, and school-based occupational and physical therapists all have an equal role in helping students.

Effective communication should also help parents feel involved in the learning process. Therapists should consider offering suggestions, such as recommending parents read to their children, help with homework, and volunteer in the classroom.

As an occupational therapist, it’s also essential to talk with your students’ teachers to get feedback on what is working and what challenges each student still faces. Keep in mind that listening to what others have to say is also an important part of good communication and effective collaboration.

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