I was at a speech and hearing conference this week. The topic of morning and lunch duties came up in a chat with some local therapists. They were shocked when I shared that I do bus duty four times per day for a total of about 60 minutes of my day.
Let’s be honest, bus duty isn’t my favorite. Our building has over 200 preschoolers, half of which have IEPs. An entire elementary school filled with 13 special needs preschool classrooms. It literally takes EVERY hand to get these little bodies walking (or in wheelchairs, wagons, and walkers) safely to cars and buses at the beginning and end of the school day (twice – since we have half day classes). In all my other school jobs, I never had bus duty because I was only in the building a few days a week. This whole bus duty thing was really new to me last year but it only took a few weeks of those daily walks to realize there isn’t any way to do it other than all-hands-on-deck. There is no “I” in bus duty. If I was any good at those word games where you rearrange the letters to spell words, I would tell you what IS in “busy duty,” but this post isn’t about bus duty. It’s about the team approach to special education.
Our building is full of specialized team members. The 14 ECIS (early childhood intervention specialist), 4 OTs (occupation therapist), PT (physical therapist), APE teacher (adapted physical education), and 3 SLPs (speech-language pathologist) are all located in the same building. While the gross motor team is only part-time, the rest of the team works in a single building full-time. There is value is proximity. I have always loved the team approach that exists in the school but that never became so apparent until I began working at this district preschool. I can go with a class into the motor room and co-treat with the OT. The ECIS and I can facilitate social skills at snack together. If I need a second opinion on a child, I grab another SLP to take a peek. Passing each other 10 times in the hallway every day gives us the chance to collaborate in ways that have never happened for me before.
Carryover and generalization has always been difficult for me to facilitate with my teachers using the traditional “pull-out” therapy approach. By providing all services within the classroom, I get a chance to share with teachers different prompts, learning targets, and carryover goals twice per week. This has increased efficiency with student achievement. My access to students has never been so high. I can literally observe their behavior every day. Not just during 20 minutes in the speech office. Of course there are hard days, hard cases, or hard compromises as with any team. The benefits of a close-knit team approach to special education have profoundly impacted the way I view the special education team. I truly believe we’ve set up an environment that is best for kids and their early intervention. Seeing many of our students catch up from severe delays to average skills in time for Kindergarten is just enough happiness to make up for those frigid bus duty mornings that are right around the bend! Even when it is ten below and snowing, I know I won’t be out there for busy duty alone. I’ll have my SpEd team by my side.
How does your team function? Do you work in the same building? On the same days? ho to you collaborate and maintain contact? I’ love to hear from you!
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