Monday, April 8, 2013

5 Ways to Communicate with Parents and Teachers

It can be difficult for school based therapists to communicate with all the team members at the school and home. Frequently, we dash in and out of schools and classrooms rushing to the next student. Effective communication is one of the keys to success with school based occupational or physical therapy.  Therapists need on going background information for what is going on at home or in the classroom.  Carry over of activities requires direction and follow through.  In addition, don’t always offer criticism or problems.  If a student does particularly well on a task during therapy let the teachers and the parents hear about it.  Here are  5 ways to communicate with parents and teachers:

1.  Communication Notebook - some students have notebooks that go back and forth from home and school.  This makes it easy to keep all communication in one organized location.  If everyone writes in one notebook, therapists can see what the teachers and parents write about as well.  You can purchase template notebooks for communication, write in a regular notebook or create your own template to use.

2.  Progress Reports - Most districts and Medicaid require progress reports for therapy goals.  In New York state it is required quarterly.  Offering more frequent progress reports can be helpful.  Perhaps every two weeks send a quick note or overview of how the student is doing towards their goals.  If a student is failing in math class parents hear about it before the report card is issued.  Therefore, if a student is not progressing towards their goals in therapy don't wait until the quarterly report to let a parent know.  School and Home Communication Forms for Therapists offers 21 forms to increase communication between therapists, school staff, students and parents.    

3.  Team Meetings - This can be very difficult to schedule but team meetings are wonderful.  I have worked with some students who had monthly team meetings on the IEP therefore we all had to find the time.  It was an excellent half hour for all of us to collaborate to help provide a more well rounded approach during therapy sessions.  It is especially helpful when a student receives many services ie OT, PT, speech, assistive tech, adapted PE, etc.

4.  Webpage or Blog - You could start a webpage or blog with tips and suggestions for parents.  It obviously could not be student specific but many suggestions work for all children.

5.  Good Old Fashioned Telephone Call - I know it takes more time and privacy to make an actual telephone call but it is always helpful to actual speak to someone.  Email can always be interpreted differently since there is no inflection involved.  Sometimes what is written can be taken the wrong way whereas with a phone call there is less room for interpretation. 

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