So should we re-think how we provide therapy while we are dealing with the Coronavirus?
Schools have closed and children are home. How do we provide their "free and appropriate education?" There's no real direction so teachers and therapists are struggling with how to do their jobs.
It's a sudden surprise. No one was prepared. Then it was like getting slapped in the face & everyone is told to go home and do your job anyway. No direction. No technical help. And teachers and therapists are scrambling. With good intentions. With a heart for their students. Crazy energy makes it feel like a lot of people are running around in circles like those characters in the cartoons.
I saw a YouTube video this morning where a teacher was reading a Leprechaun book with little Boardmaker symbols popping around the pages. And this was supposed to be an "at home lesson" in place of school.
I wasn't even sure where I was supposed to look for all those popping symbols and I'm not quite sure what the objective of the lesson was. So I'm not really sure what a young child with special learning needs would get out of that lesson.
Please don't misunderstand me here. I'm not trying to criticize. I'm sure someone put thought and effort into trying to do something for her students to meet those new unspecified expectations. But I'm not sure this video is going to do the job.
It's stressful out there
I've been reading through my Facebook posts and there are so many parents stressed out because they think they are supposed to suddenly become teachers & therapists to accomplish their children's IEP goals & the kids aren't cooperating very well. And honestly, for a lot of them, even without the IEP goals it isn't going very well.
Consider that being at home right now is not even like weekends or summer vacation for families. First, it's unexpected. Also, families aren't participating in all the activities and outings that are part of their regular life, so everything is different.
One of the best things parents can do is create some predictable routines in their days. What kind of structure can they create so they can get through a whole day with minimum issues? That would be a major accomplishment for many families.
Here's what you can do
I'm not suggesting you violate the expectations of your supervisors or whoever else is directing what you should be doing right now. But helping parents create some routines that provide order and calm with their children in their "new normal" at home can go a long way toward trying to accomplish any other goals that need to be addressed.
You have a unique opportunity right now
I've always considered supporting teachers and families an important part of providing service to any of my students as a Speech Therapist. After all, they spend a lot more time with that student than I do. And if I can give them tools to help them become better communication partners, then that student will benefit.
And the reality is that in many situations there is an ongoing issue of not having enough time with parents. Often they need a lot more support and suggestions than we are able to give in our brief encounters.
So what does that mean?
Maybe we need to re-think at-home-learning or tele-school or tele-therapy or whatever you want to call it, that so many teachers and therapists have been thrust into . Especially since this is all happening so quickly and unexpectedly.
I know there are some tele-therapy companies and situations out there that have managed to create systems that work for students in various situations. I'm sure they meet a need. But I can guarantee they didn't spring up over a weekend with no prior planning.
But there were lots of frustrated teachers and therapists in my social media feeds who were expressing their inability to accomplish what they wanted to do from a remote location.
And one more issue
If parents are struggling to manage when their child is out of school for two weeks, what will happen if the time gets extended for a month or for the rest of the school year? And it might.
Here's my suggestion
Think "outside-the-box." Focus on teaching the parent or family member how to create some successful routines and activities at home. What needs to happen for them to have a successful hour or a half day or whole day at home?
Families will have different answers for that, but you can help them accomplish it. This suggestion is not for every student, but you probably have some who need that "outside-the-box" approach.
Check out my blog post about the Autism Survival Tool Box. Share it with the families you work with. These may be things that you have already suggested that they do, but they'll be more motivated now to increase their effort.
If a family puts the strategies in the Autism Survival Tool Box to work in their home, the student will return to school more peaceful and ready to learn. Then you can address the rest of those objectives on his IEP.
P.S. If you are a Speech Pathologist, ASHA (American Speech & Hearing Association) describes services for autism as including "teaching the family or other significant communication partners specific skills and strategies."
Yes, we need to re-think therapy and other educational services.