Spring 2: Part 2: Leveraging Collaborative Partnerships to Support Student Participation

In addition to supporting educationally relevant practices, collaborative partnerships are essential for the advancement of student participation and developmental, functional and academic advancement. As we discussed in previous modules, collaboration is required by IDEA and is a central determinate of student success. Leveraging collaborative partnerships to support participation is essential and developing the competencies for building and sustaining collaborative partnerships is essential. Blue-Banning et al. (2002) describes six themes of collaborative family-professional partnership that include: communication, commitment, equality, skills, trust, and respect. These themes are consistent in the literature for professional – professional collaborative relationships as well.

If our ultimate goal is to expand a student’s capacity for independent living and robust secondary education and vocational outcomes, we must effectively collaborate with all members of the student’s team, both within and beyond the school, to effect needed change. The qualities of effective collaboration are common goals, shared responsibility, shared accountability, and shared decision making. A way to think about this collaboration is as follows:

 

You might be asking yourself, “How do I strengthen collaborative partnerships that enhance active student engagement in all aspects of student life? Where do I begin? What do I focus on?” Like we have seen in the previous examples, what we do and how we do it is based on the specific context as well as the developmental age and stage of our students. As a team we might want to ask the following questions:

Understanding one’s communication strengths and needs as well as the contextual, attitudinal, and/or cultural affordances and barriers to effectiveness partnerships is essential to building and sustaining interdisciplinary collaborative partnerships that enhance student participation and outcomes. Tools like Interprofessional Collaborator Assessment Rubric (ICAR) can support professional development and help us identify the knowledge and skills, attitudes and perspectives, and resources that we need to be effective collaborators in educational settings.

Discussion

Reflect on the ways in which contextual and developmental turning points influence the development and sustainability of collaborative relationships with other professionals with whom we interact in educational settings. Comment on your collaboration skills. How might you use your strengths to collaboratively design individualized and educationally relevant interventions that take into account these turning points, foster participation, and improve the independent living, education and vocational outcomes of your students?

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10 thoughts on “Spring 2: Part 2: Leveraging Collaborative Partnerships to Support Student Participation

  1. A big reason why I was drawn to school-based practice was the emphasis on the team approach to supporting students. Contextual and developmental turning points can change the team’s priorities or change the team altogether. When these changes occur, it is important that we come together as a team to support a student. There were instances I saw in which the student was getting to be older elementary aged and there was a shift from handwriting to more keyboarding skills. There was one instance where the parent was confused by this and advocated for continued writing support. As the OT, we had to clearly communicate from our perspective without sacrificing the equity of members (including the parent). We validated the father’s concerns and as an IEP team came to conclusion that the OT goal would be based around keyboarding but handwriting would still be addressed in the classroom and on a consult-basis by the OT. Having those open conversations (not just at IEP meetings) created trust and commitment among team members.
    I thought I had strong collaboration skills, but found MANY challenges and areas for improvement as I was completing fieldwork in the school-setting. In previous jobs, I have had one team that I worked with, but in the school-setting I needed to manage collaboration with many different teams in different locations with limited time. I realized that effective collaboration is something that takes intention and planning. I learned that different people have different schedules and methods they prefer to communication/collaborate. For example, some of teachers preferred to talk during class time and others preferred to talk privately during breaks or via email. When I start a position in the fall, I will make an effort to build a relationship with my teams and get a sense of other people’s preferences and styles. I am naturally a positive communicator and a strong and empathetic listener. I think these skills help me design interventions that are client-centered and address the priorities of team members. I recognize and value each person’s role and use my own OT lens to provide additional perspectives. Being trained in activity analysis, for example, helps me determine strategies to foster participation at different stages of a student’s life.

  2. As educators we all have expectations and guidelines we must abide by; whether that be following common core, SOLs, special education guidelines, state/school district regulations/guidelines, etc. According to the Laverdure article, “Effective collaborative practice requires that all members of the interdisciplinary team commit time to collaboration and understand special education regulation, school board policy, curriculum and classroom practices, and the roles and responsibilities of each member (Villeneuve, 2009; Villeneuve & Shulha, 2012). Effective collaboration occurs when team members focus on discussing the expected outcomes of students within a specific educational context, defining the affordances and barriers to outcome achievement, and sharing innovative ways to instruct and provide intervention to meet the expectations (Fairbairn & Davidson, 1993). I think the above information speaks volumes to what is needed for successful collaboration among team members.

    As student’s progress throughout their education their needs may differ and change. With this growth/shift comes change in ways we [professionals] need to collaborate – by this I mean, as educators and therapists we will need to shift our focus on the goal(s) of the students. For example students in high school have the focus on more living skills versus elementary school students who may need to focus more on the academics and communication needs (per the chart). As the needs of the students change, the needs for services may change (i.e., no longer needing speech or PT but still needing OT) and in turn our service delivery may be different – however with this it is vital we still work with educators/therapists on the team to keep each other informed. It is important we make TIME to meet as a team to discuss policies, role/responsibilities, expected outcomes, etc.

    As a student clinician I was fortunate to have a good relationship with the Occupational Therapist (and her student – a friend of mine) at the school, so collaboration was great! I have a student with ASD and we [my supervisor and I] are working on finding things that motivate her to expand her use of PECs, thus we turned to the OT and her graduate student. Together we tried things like the trampoline, bubbles, etc. to help motivate the student to use her communication and expend energy.

    As a new professional I hope to come into a school system with a new outlook; bringing fresh eyes and ideas and setting a precedent on the importance of making TIME for collaboration. Being in a school this semester has opened my eyes on how busy/hectic everyone schedules can be – thus it is a challenge to make the time for effective collaboration practices. I hope to make a difference with my fresh perspective and bring new ideas to the table for the best possible outcome for each student I serve.

  3. Contextual and developmental turning points are incredibly influential in the collaborative relationships amongst professionals in an educational setting. For one, each professional must be willing to listen to and ideally incorporate ideas based on each team member’s approach to those turning points, especially in order to achieve a successful inter professional approach to each client’s needs. As an upcoming OT, I can consider the environmental, contextual, and developmental turning points that are most relevant to my practice, but unless I take into account those of SLPs, PTs, teachers, etc., the student will be the one to lose out; by that, I mean that working in collaboration is the most effective and efficient way to meet goals and provide a comprehensive service to the students at hand. If I can incorporate a speech or physical therapy goal—from an OT lens, of course—or approach in my session that also falls in line with one of my goals, I am supporting the work of my colleagues while implementing my own strategies as well.

  4. A big reason why I was drawn to school-based practice was the emphasis on the team approach to supporting students. Contextual and developmental turning points can change the team’s priorities or change the team altogether. When these changes occur, it is important that we come together as a team to support a student. There were instances I saw in which the student was getting to be older elementary aged and there was a shift from handwriting to more keyboarding skills. There was one instance where the parent was confused by this and advocated for continued writing support. As the OT, we had to clearly communicate from our perspective without sacrificing the equity of members (including the parent). We validated the father’s concerns and as an IEP team came to conclusion that the OT goal would be based around keyboarding but handwriting would still be addressed in the classroom and on a consult-basis by the OT. Having those open conversations (not just at IEP meetings) created trust and commitment among team members.

    I thought I had strong collaboration skills, but found MANY challenges and areas for improvement as I was completing fieldwork in the school-setting. In previous jobs, I have had one team that I worked with, but in the school-setting I needed to manage collaboration with many different teams in different locations with limited time. I realized that effective collaboration is something that takes intention and planning. I learned that different people have different schedules and methods they prefer to communication/collaborate. For example, some of teachers preferred to talk during class time and others preferred to talk privately during breaks or via email. When I start a position in the fall, I will make an effort to build a relationship with my teams and get a sense of other people’s preferences and styles. I am naturally a positive communicator and a strong and empathetic listener. I think these skills help me design interventions that are client-centered and address the priorities of team members. I recognize and value each person’s role and use my own OT lens to provide additional perspectives. Being trained in activity analysis, for example, helps me determine strategies to foster participation at different stages of a student’s life.

  5. I learned from my last clinical affiliation, which was in the school setting, just how important collaboration and communication is. I was constantly checking in with the classroom teachers, the special education teachers, the gym teachers, the teaching assistants, the parents, the students, the administration, the occupational therapists, the speech therapists, etc. This collaboration and communication was imperative for best treating each student. When treating each student, we all had to consider both the contextual and developmental turning points.
    As a physical therapist, I was initially more concerned with the developmental turning points, as that’s what the focus had been during my coursework. However, I began to quickly realize the impact of contextual turning points. As Karissa mentioned above, the focus for elementary students is on academics and communication, whereas the focus for high school students is on life and career skills. In my experience, I have also noticed a shift from direct services to indirect services as a student ages. This shift in delivery of services also results in a shift in the delivery of communication. Regardless of the delivery of service, collaboration and communication are extremely important.
    As Taylor mentioned above, there are a lot of challenges for collaborating and communicating when working in the school setting. In my clinical in the acute care setting, I typically only worked with a few nurses, OTs, SLPs, doctors, etc. In the school setting, I was in 10 different schools, so I was working with many more people. Not having a set space or working in the same location every day did make collaboration and communication difficult. For example, there were multiple instances with a student’s case manager would simply forget to communicate to related services about a student’s IEP meeting. This led to last minute communication and last minute scrambling to complete my portion of the IEP.
    I think that these challenges in collaboration and communication allowed for me to be more patient with all of the professionals that I worked with. I was able to pick up on how others wanted to handle collaboration and communication. Some people wanted to be contacted via email or on the phone, while others would refuse to speak to me during instructional times and others were completely fine with it. Getting a better grasp on how others prefer to collaborate and communicate is something that would definitely benefit me when I am working in the school setting.

  6. As a PT in the school setting it is clear that my role will change as students move through contextual and developmental turning points and as these changes occur, it will be important to find ways to maintain collaborative relationships in order to best serve the student and their current needs. The first turning point that come to mind are the shift from play based learning in younger children to more time spent at desks in a traditional format. Another major turning point occurs as recess times are decreased or removed and as PE classes become more advanced and structured and then are ultimately not required. Of course, the transitions between each school building and the unique characteristics of each place (stairs, ramps, playgrounds, transportation, etc.) also serve as contextual turning points for the students.
    As I examine each of these changes, I realized that as a student grows older and moves through the educational system it becomes increasingly difficult to foster collaborative relationships as a physical therapist. The general trend is that physical abilities play a smaller role as a child matures and school becomes more classroom based. It is easy to foster collaborative relationships when I am able to make goals for and work with children during field trips, recess, PE class, play based learning activities, but as these are removed from curriculum I have found it harder to build collaborative relationships with other professionals and they are unable to see the impacts of PT on older students.
    I really appreciate the ICAR and actually presented it to my colleagues during my school based clinical experience. While I realize it is designed as a rubric, I was able to condense the information and use it as a roadmap to building collaborative relationships and highlighting some of the more challenging aspects of doing this. My greatest strength is communication skills and I try to use this to foster the rest of the collaborative elements outlined by ICAR. By sharing ICAR with colleagues I found it helped to explain my goals and my ideas for best practice of collaboration. I plan to use this in the future to promote truly collaborative partnerships to enhance student outcomes.

  7. I think if our ultimate goal is to expand a student’s capacity for independent living and robust secondary education and vocational outcomes, we must have a continued connection with other RSPs and the student’s parents throughout their time with us. However, collaboration with teachers and administrations will obviously change as the student changes teachers and schools over time. In FW, I saw transition from elementary to middle as a huge turning point for some of my students. Their self-esteem and decision making capacity were BIG developmental factors during this time. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to work with middle and high schoolers long term yet, but it is something I am really looking forward to. I know it will bring a whole new set of contextual and developmental turning points to plan and work with. For example, I think the context of a student having multiple teachers will put stress on the sustainability of collaborative relationships. However, as students continue to and maybe even focus more on functional life skills as they enter high school, I imagine that sustaining collaborative relationships with the student (who is growing more and more independent), teachers, parents, administration, and other RSPs will be of the utmost importance.

    Looking at the ICAR, I believe I will be able to use my strengths of confident, respectful communication, information sharing, and integration of student values/beliefs to help design individualized and educationally relevant interventions for students on my caseload. As a new grad therapist I will have to assert myself while also learning from my more experienced colleagues and building rapport with students who I am meeting for the first time. Additionally, as a new employee, therapist, and team member, I think a lot of my first year of work will include feeling out team dynamics, integrating onto the team, and establishing my unique role and value as both an OT and individual.

  8. I have had two very different experiences with collaboration while completing my external placements. While one was medical and the other was educational, the perspectives were vastly different. I became increasingly frustrated throughout my medical placement as the team of service providers lacked communication. After education to the nursing staff and therapy staff I still removed 4 water pitchers from an NPO patients room. The lack of communication resulted in increased risk for my patients. I thought to myself, “how can I advocate for my patients, if no one listens!!”. After these repeated incidents, I changed the way I approached an interdisciplinary team – I made sure that I was listening. I made sure I asked questions everyday regarding progress or changes in all aspects of care.

    I took my new found perspective with my when I entered my unorthodox educational setting at RIT/NTID. At RIT/NTID, I worked daily with audiologists, professors, tutors, career counselors, interpreters, access support, and caregivers. The professionals in this environment were so willing to go out of their way for the benefit of a single student. We all had the same goal – what can we do to improve the access and success for our students in their learning environment. As this is so familiar, it emphasizes that communication is key in regards to sustainability of not only collaborative relationships but for the success of the student as well.

    The statement of access and success for our students is the identical goal to us as service providers in the public school educational system. It is crucial for us not only to ask the questions regarding contextual situations, age and stage, and active and inclusive participation, but also to really listen to our interdisciplinary team in order to support the student in the most beneficial way.

  9. Regardless of the profession, everyone learns about collaboration. It is definitely something that is emphasized, but it is also something that is difficult to accomplish depending on the setting and the individuals you have to collaborate with. During my medical placement, all of the therapists collaborated well. I worked in outpatient so individuals could receive services from an OT, PT, and SLP. If one of our clients were receiving services from the other disciplines were communicated on a daily about their progress, especially if one of us noted things that may be critical insight for another profession. There was a lot of transparency and carryover/blending of skills between the disciplines. However, my school placement did not have the same type of collaboration. My supervisor mentioned multiple times how she doesn’t feel respected by other members of the team and felt that the teachers didn’t always compromise/communicate with her. As a student, I didn’t have those experiences because I feel like the teachers were nice due to the fact I was a student and learning how to work in a school. I also don’t know any of the prior history or dynamics between the staff because I hadn’t been there very long.

    Services are different for every student and the services for one student will change throughout the time in school. The fact that student have these contextual/developmental turning points means there is an even bigger reason why schools professionals should be collaborating to the best of their ability. Obviously, it’s difficult because everyone wants the student during the designated time, but it’s important to remember what is best for the student. There were times I went to grab a student at the scheduled time and the student was completing an assignment that was important to the teacher and critical to their education. If I have a student struggling in a particular area, then I don’t want to pull them from class at a time they’re learning a critical concept which would put them further behind their peers. I knew we had an open slot later in the day, so I told the teacher the time, offered to come back then, and she agree that would be better. If it was a student who would benefit from me joining the lesson in the classroom, then I would have done that too. It just depends on the situation, but I think it’s important for us, as professionals, and put the student first. There may be situations where one discipline is more pivotal for the student at that time, but it’s important to have those checks and balances in place so students receive necessary, appropriate services especially during these turning points in life/education.

  10. Collaboration plays a significant role in the success of the intervention of the client. I was fortunate to have positive experiences in both my medical and educational settings collaborating with other professionals. In the nursing home, I interacted with CNAs, nurses, occupational, and physical therapists regularly regarding the resident’s progress and status. In my educational setting, teachers were receptive to the ideas that my supervisor and I would suggest for most situations. My supervisor had also been part of the school for a long time, allowing her to build trust and rapport with a large amount of the faculty, which I believe helped in the professionals’ openness when discussing possible intervention strategies and techniques for the students.

    Collaborating with other professionals will help ensure that the student is receiving the appropriate services and supports as the student continues to progress in his or her academic career. As mentioned by Jessica, I also saw with my students transitioning from elementary school to middle school to serve as a vital point for the students. The middle school also proposed more challenges in collaborating with other professionals in scheduling testing and therapy. There was difficulty in arranging when a professional would see a student to conduct testing or provide therapy when other service providers also needed to provide testing/therapy while also communicating with the student’s teacher of a good time to pull the student out of class. In these situations, communicating with each member of the team was the only way to ensure that the student’s needs were being continuously placed first, so the appropriate services were being provided.

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