Before I started teaching, I imagined related services as something separate from my class. I would teach them, then the physical therapist would come in and take care of their motor skill deficits. The speech language pathologist would come in and fix their communication problems. The occupational therapist would…well, I really didn’t know what the occupational therapist would do!
Once I began teaching, I saw my room as an extension of the therapies. They would tell me what to do and I would do it. For example, “Joe needs to get in the stander for 45 minutes per day.” So, Joe would get in the stander 45 minutes per day (well, ya know, most days). “Do these facial exercises with John to stimulate chewing”. So, I’d squish John’s face before lunch. With this mindset, it was so difficult to answer questions! “Hey Jenny, how is Suzie doing with the articulation of her “th” sound?” *Deer in headlights* “Uh...um…better?” I knew the importance of therapies and understood that simply working on it in their once or twice per week little snapshots of time wasn’t enough, but I still kept therapy work and class work separated, only really focusing on what was a specific IEP goal.
My mindset has shifted. If you could speak to the therapists in my district, you’d know I’m not perfect (lucky for me, I’m not giving you their numbers) ;-) but I try. I see the value of related service integration. I know that for my students to truly make gains in related service goals, they need to be able to generalize these skills throughout their days. It needs to be a priority for me to mesh ALL of their goals into an individualized program for each of my students. I'd love to, through this series, open up the conversation for others to share with me how they incorporate therapies into their classrooms. In part 2 of this related services series, I’ll reveal what spurred the change in my head, heart, and classroom. Stay tuned!