Are Your Therapy Staffing Resources Ready for More Remote Schooling?
In much of the U.S., this school year is starting the same way the last one ended—at home. In states where Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) operates, many districts and schools are adopting a hybrid approach, meaning students will be at home a few days each week.
Do you have the therapy staffing resources to provide related services remotely to students who need them during these challenging times?
Three Key COVID-Era Considerations for Successful Related Service Staffing
As you decide which therapy staffing resources you’ll need this year, here are three important questions to ask:
1. How does data from my program dictate staffing priorities?
This question is always important, but accurate data analysis is especially critical for remote or hybrid programs when communicating with staff and observing therapy may take more effort.
You need performance data on the key metrics of your related services program and how various models of service (hybrid, virtual and in-person) impact cost and student outcomes. Without the clarity that data analysis provides, you can’t answer such key questions as:
- Are caseloads growing?
- What are the preferred service models across your school community and how does that impact staffing levels?
- Do you need more therapists, or could you reduce unnecessary referrals and bring those numbers down?
- What is the participation rate in virtual therapy among your students?
- How can you improve that rate so students’ IEPs stay compliant?
- Do you have enough clinicians to provide related services to kindergarteners transitioning from early intervention services? (As of mid-August, Congress hadn’t approved a limited waiver allowing Part C services to continue past a child’s third birthday.)
You can’t answer these questions or take appropriate action unless you have the clarity on your program’s performance only data analysis provides.
2. How are we training staff to support students virtually?
“Teachers… are now required to incorporate a new, diverse set of professional skills to support online student learning,” Sean J. Smith and Mary F. Rice wrote for The Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities in 2016. With remote and hybrid learning in place, the need for such training is even more pressing.
Where programs use a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) model, therapists can train teachers in adapting Tier 1 interventions to a virtual environment. For instance:
- Physical therapists can model how teachers can incorporate “brain breaks” for building strength and postural control into virtual lessons.
- Occupational therapists can share deep-belly-breathing exercises that help students calm down and focus.
- Speech language pathologists can train teachers to lead articulation and sight word games.
AT PTS, we’ve found even experienced therapists needed regular training and support adapting sessions to a virtual platform. So our team’s members shared treatment ideas, fun online activities, and tools such as scheduling apps to help everyone stay on track. Having successfully trained ourselves to adapt to these new circumstances, we’re more than ready to train your teachers to adapt, too.
3. How are we helping students cope with pandemic-related trauma?
Students have experienced varying degrees of emotional and psychological distress because of the pandemic itself and its severe disruption of school. For students with special needs, losing in-person related services may have compounded the harm.
Special education programs will want to ensure staff members can deliver services in trauma-sensitive ways. While staff can’t be expected to replace mental health professionals, they can and should be trained to recognize and respond to signs of trauma. Therapists can show them how to serve students without causing more stress and anxiety, and how to promote students’ capacity to heal and grow.
Consider PTS’ Therapy Staffing Solutions for Distance Learning
When you’re a PTS client district or school, we can help you:
- Collect and analyze data so you have a clearer picture of what is and isn’t working in your program, and identify opportunities for improvement.
- Provide in-service training and other professional development to give teachers strategies and skills for directly supporting students with special needs.
- Develop and implement trauma-informed ways of delivering related services so your students can more effectively cope with this already unsettled new school year.
To take advantage of all the therapy staffing resources PTS has to offer, contact us online or call us at (610) 941-7020.
Plus, you can watch our free, on-demand webinar, Teletherapy 101. It will give you a quick and practical orientation to the fundamentals of creating a stellar school-based teletherapy program!