Collaboration Week: a Therapist’s Perspective

Categories: Data | Resources

Next up on the collaboration agenda – the therapist. Whether the speech language pathologist, the occupational therapist, the behavioral therapist, the social worker, or the physical therapist – each clinician brings a unique set of expertise and skill sets. Each clinician is essential to the successful education of our students. But – this therapy cannot and should not occur in isolation. If a child meets criteria to receive a type of therapy – it means that they have a significant skill deficit that requires direct services. But – 30 minutes a week isn’t going to teach a child to communicate. That is not the point. You need to be working with the therapists. You should be utilizing their techniques throughout each and every day!

One amazing SLP writes about her experiences with collaboration {don’t you wish you could work with her??}

I am a preschool and elementary speech-language pathologist who works in the public schools. My caseload this year spans PreK through 3rd grade. For those who know me, collaboration is one of my favorite parts of my job. I am the SLP that is ALWAYS talking with my team throughout the day. I make it a point to know what the other professional is working on. Because I work in the schools, I find it so important to know about the WHOLE child and their education… not just their speech and language needs. I work with about 10 regular education teachers, two occupational therapists, two physical therapists, 5 intervention specialists, various administrators, 57 students, and almost 120 parents. That’s a LOT of people to collaborate with! I LOVE working with people on a team. There is nothing that makes me feel better about my job than when I know I’m working on a good team. Just as I read your email last night asking to comment on collaboration, one of my Intervention Specialists group texted the OT and me and this is what it said: “I’m finishing up reading over X’s IEP and I have to thank you guys for doing an amazing job. I think we did a great job with his IEP.” How great is that? I also love that she took the time to acknowledge the group effort. I also think that this little guy is lucky to have a team that is so strong.

One of the most influential things that a professor taught me in grad school was this: “If an observer looks into a therapy room/classroom and sees an occupational therapist and a speech-language pathologist working with a child, the observer should not be able to tell the difference between the two.” I have a LONG way to go before I have all of the knowledge to look like an OT or an intervention specialist, but that’s what I’m shooting for.

In a few of my preschool classrooms I am very close to achieving this goal. In one of my specialized classrooms (or classrooms specifically with students on the spectrum), my intervention specialist and I are such a great team. We run the classroom TOGETHER. Little 3 and 4 year olds with severe autism don’t know when its “speech time” or “teacher work time.” They need INTERVENTION… not separate services provided in 20 minute increments. We are truly a team for these kiddos in this classroom. We run circle times together, help each other write goals, bounce ideas off one another, and love the kids from the bottoms of our hearts. I feel so confident and successful when I am in her classroom because I know that I am providing the best therapy that I know how to do.

Take away that collaboration and my confidence is not as strong. I’ve worked with a few teachers who see the speech therapist as a separate entity and don’t want to really know about what goes on in the speech room. They think that once I take them I will “fix them.” Don’t get me wrong, I have my weaknesses too. I don’t know the curriculum as well as I should. I don’t always know the lessons that are going on in every classroom. There have been many times when I have walked into an IEP meeting without having read over the other goals on the IEP. That is definitely when I have dropped the ball. I’m not proud of those meetings!! I don’t always know what’s going on with EVERY student in every other service that they are provided… but I try to keep in constant communication with my team about my kiddos, even if its a 2 minute conversation in the copy room.

Overall, I think good collaboration is what is best for the students. There is nothing I love more than working on a team!!

collaboration week

Tips on therapist collaboration?? 


  1. When I first started out as a para in a self-contained classroom for students with autism, the OT would always stop by once or twice a week to talk with the teacher about the students and she would always complain afterwards about the OT taking up so much time, when it was really just a few minutes. I asked to observe the OT and she graciously allowed me to follow her and one of our students to the back of the school to a small room where she worked 1:1 with the student in an isolated setting. She had an excellent program set up for the student and accomplished a lot in the short therapy session, but I realized that she must have felt so isolated working all by herself and I decided then and there that when I became a special education teacher that I would take the time to welcome therapists into my classroom and collaborate them. I have an excellent team and we collaborate with each other every day!

  2. I currently work with a team of therapists that truly believe in an integrated model. An excellent example of us all working together occurs each week when my class goes to gymnastics. The physical therapist and speech therapist go with us and work with the students individually and as a group right along with the assistants, gymnastics teacher, parents and myself. It is beautiful!

  3. The Speech & OT I work with work right in my room- push in services. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just make the request at the annual IEP meeting. Makes team work much easier!!

  4. That is a great story Roxanne!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing

  5. That sounds amazing. I love that your students do gymnastics! How fun!!

  6. Great point Michele!

  7. Why yes, I DO wish I could work with this SLP. She has a pretty awesome philosophy. 🙂 For me, It was actually the collaboration that I had with the therapists, specifically the SLP, in my self-contained classroom that led me from a special education teacher to SLP.

  8. I was wondering what lead you to speech, Erin!! Hope you are doing well 🙂


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