If a student receives speech or occupational therapy services on their IEP (Individualized Education Plan), you may see students pulled out of class to work with providers individually or the provider may push in to support the student in the classroom. However, another approach to providing services to students that our team embraces is co-treatment. The American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) states co-treatment is “when practitioners from different professional disciplines can effectively address their treatment goals while the patient is engaged in a single therapy session.” In schools, this could look like the OT and SLP working together simultaneously to target skill building in their respective discipline during a session for an individual or group of students. For example, while working with a student whose IEP goal is increasing their social emotional skills, the session may include a turn taking game. During this activity, the OT is supporting the student with turn-taking, emotional regulation and fine motor skills, while the SLP is supporting the student with peer engagement, sportsmanship, attention to the activity and following directions.
The co-treatment approach may not only benefit the student, but also positively impacts the classroom, school environment and the providers themselves. After asking the Specialists team, here are some of the benefits they experience when co-treating:
- Allows for a student to practice skills working as a team, conversation skills, turn-taking, practicing skills in a social group
- Maximizes therapy time (could prevent fatigue or withdrawal, allows student to stay in class more)
- More functional for students – in co-treatment sessions students are working on many skills which may increase a higher chance of carryover into other settings
- Increased engagement – two professionals allows for more fun and involved therapy sessions (i.e. cooking, crafts, games, community outings, etc.)
- More opportunities to learn from other professionals – tips, strategies, activity ideas, etc.
- Supports in learning flexibility in how to target goals (being able to adapt any activity to work on skill building)
- Supports with behavior management
- Fun and involved therapy sessions bring joy to providers!
- Promotes collaboration and a student-centered approach
- Learning from other providers can increase information sharing with other school staff
A big shout out to Kelsey Kircher (SLP), Danielle Farrand (SLP), Devon McNeeley (Lead SLP), Nic Huang (OT) and Nicole Matichuk (Lead OT) for sharing their thoughts on co-treatment and how it can be a beneficial approach for all.