Part One: Adopting A Holistic Approach to Therapy

If you’re a special education administrator who wants to see related services in schools delivered in line with a more holistic approach to therapy, clarifying your program’s true values is the first step.

Female special education administrator stands in class where students work holding folder related services in her school.True values aren’t rules to follow or platitudes to recite. True values act as a compass. In uncertain times and situations, such as the ones you and educators worldwide now face, they guide your words and actions.

A few years ago, the entire corporate team here at Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) took part in a workshop on corporate values. During it, we defined ours.

Instead of asking, “What do we do at PTS?,” we asked, “What ideas inform what we do at PTS?” The difference between those two questions is subtle but powerful.

Our answers revealed PTS is, at its core, a highly relational company. While we value each individual’s creative contributions, what energizes us most is collaborating as a supportive team. That collaboration also set us apart from other agencies seemingly focused only on filling therapy staffing gaps.

We saw collaboration in each of the seven values we identified. We’ve posted these values around our corporate office, to help keep us focused and headed in the right direction:

  1. Teach Everyone
  2. Be/See Holistic
  3. Be Intentional
  4. Ease the Burden
  5. Cultivate Community
  6. Show Up for People
  7. Collaborate to Innovate

I’d like to discuss these values with you as a way of nudging you to think about your program’s true values. Clarity on these values is a tremendous asset for serving students in more holistic ways.

For now, let’s look at the first four of PTS’ values. We’ll cover the others in a later blog post.

Core Values Guiding Our Related Service Delivery in Schools

1. Teach Everyone 

It’s no surprise an education-based company providing related services in schools is passionate about teaching! Making others’ education an organizational priority is transformative.

For example, if a therapist is struggling with a complex group of students on her caseload, our “Teach Everyone” value informs our Clinical Director’s response to the situation. Instead of replacing the therapist, the Director will lean in and provide needed mentorship and resources.

This value also encourages our therapists and employees to admit, without fear, what they don’t know.

PTS serves dozens of school districts across the Greater Delaware Valley, each with its own processes and procedures. While our model streamlines communication and workflow, it must be adapted to each client’s unique needs. We want corporate staff and clinicians alike to ask questions so they’re sure they understand what clients ask of them.

The teachers and students in each of the schools we serve require the same level of targeted focus. PTS gives free teacher and parent trainings in client districts and schools as part of our commitment to those communities.

Teacher training is a part of every PTS Director’s job description. And the ability to consult with and train teachers and paraprofessionals is a must for any therapist who joins our team.

2. Be/See Holistic

In special education, as in so many areas of life, “The devil is in the details.” From developing IEP goals to scheduling students, we encourage our team to be aware of the big picture and to be on the lookout for potential obstacles or bottlenecks.

How we communicate as a team helps create that picture and keep the focus on building relationships and community. We encourage our corporate team and our therapists to connect live with others, as opposed to using email or text messages (if they need anything more than a transactional communication). Nothing turns a small problem into a big misunderstanding like a poorly written email!  

As therapists develop students’ goals and schedules, we teach them to adopt a holistic approach to their therapy services by looking at them in the context of the child’s entire educational program. Seeing a child during a special class like art may seem the least disruptive option—but not if that student’s a gifted artist! Developing strengths is often more important than correcting dysfunction, and can lead to more successful outcomes.

Likewise, therapists must keep the big picture in view as part of a child’s IEP team.  A clinician may win a battle over her recommended service levels, but if her victory happens at the expense of relationships with teachers and parents, the war is lost.

3. Be Intentional

Female school-based therapist waves at teachers and paraprofessionals on computer screen.Taking time to plan ahead is always better and easier than cleaning up! Purposefully acting according to a well-considered game plan outmaneuvers a rote approach any day of the week.

We tell our corporate staff and therapists to make time and prepare for meetings. Investing three to five minutes to get clarity on your desired outcome and the steps you must take to achieve it is smart.

And, don’t minimize the importance of follow up! Success is always in the follow-through. Closing the loop with clients, therapists, and each other internally helps ensure no balls are dropped. 

Last, as we know from working on student goals, setting a timeline and working toward it is a key component to progress. We strive to set and meet deadlines so we can celebrate crossing the finish line—no excuses!

4. Ease the Burden 

Helpfulness is fundamental to our ability to build trust and community. It’s a value manifesting itself in a myriad of ways across our company. 

For example, despite equitably assigning therapist caseloads, it’s not uncommon for one building in a district to get some surprise “move-in” students or a flood of therapy referrals. Rather than piecemealing our staffing plan and adding a one day per week supplemental therapist, we encourage other therapists on the team to jump in and help in the short term. This solution streamlines therapy teams and keeps a minimum number of therapists serving a single building.  

Similarly, if our Clinical Directors or our clients see a therapist struggling with a particularly complex case, we immediately put supports in place to make sure everyone has the help they need. It’s this level of collaboration that reflects balanced support for all stakeholders.

Want Help Clarifying the Arrows That Can Point to Your Program’s Success?

As leaders of an organization with hundreds of employees and therapists, clearly defining our true values has enabled us to develop a consistent company-wide culture and experience. Our values are like arrows, pointing everyone in the right direction together. 

I hope you’ll read about PTS’ final three true values in part two of this series. But I also hope you’re already seeing how a more holistic approach to therapy begins with a holistic assessment of your program’s values. 

What ideas inform what you do?

If you’d like our help identifying your program’s values and discerning whether they are helping you serve your students as efficiently, effectively, and comprehensively as you can, call us at 610-941-7020 or contact us online.

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