Like many special education administrators today, you need viable therapy staffing solutions more than ever.
Even as more students are receiving special education and related services, fewer qualified professionals are providing them.
Witness this small sample of statistics gathered by the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services:
- 98% of U.S. school districts report special education shortages.
- 54% of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) report shortages in their schools.
- The ratios of school counselors (482:1) and psychologists (1,182:1) to students are twice what’s recommended (250:1 and 500-700:1, respectively).
You’re probably more than able to put a face on numbers like these. These aren’t mere percentages of academic interest to you. They’re real kids that need the help of special ed professionals like yourself.
Gaps in your staff mean students are not getting all they need—occupational therapy to improve their fine motor skills, physical therapy to help them move safely around the school building, screening for alternative and augmentative communication systems, and more.
Knowing students are going unserved is a situation you don’t want and can’t tolerate, and it might tempt you to grab therapists from any staffing company you can.
At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), we got into this field for the same reason you did: to do more good for more students with disabilities and disorders. We feel the same pressure you do to make every child’s education as positive and powerful as possible. And there’s no question it takes a lot of people to achieve that goal.
But you can’t let that pressure drive you to settle for therapy staffing “solutions” that give you nothing more than warm bodies to fill your vacancies.
You need an approach that not only sends you qualified and quality clinicians, but also maximizes every team member’s impact.
That’s the difference a multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) makes. Because you’re offering tiered supports, only students who really need therapy end up on the caseload. Your existing team can triage students based on their response to interventions, allowing them to support more students in less time.
MTSS: Educating the Whole Child in the Natural Environment
“Holistic” is a popular buzzword in educational circles, but the MTSS framework truly is. It integrates concern for and attention to education’s academic, social, emotional, and behavioral dimensions; it addresses “the whole child.”
An MTSS framework focuses on keeping students with special needs in general education classrooms to the fullest appropriate extent. Considering this “natural” or “least restrictive” environment as these students’ first placement option is federal special education law. It’s also proven to benefit kids. A substantial body of research reveals students with disabilities experience more positive academic and social progress in inclusive settings.
The model also yields more positive outcomes for their peers. “Studies show that when inclusion is done well,” K-6 teacher and disability advocate Hannah Grieco writes for Education Week, it “enhances the ability of non-disabled kids to cooperate, work together, understand and value different perspectives, think critically, and even test well.”
Inclusion “done well” means students with special needs receive the supports and services they require, but they receive them alongside their peers on an as-needed basis. Tier 1 interventions target all students. Fewer students qualify for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions when therapies at the lower levels don’t help them reach their goals.
Reducing Therapy Staffing Doesn’t Mean Reducing Support
How does the MTSS framework help you solve your therapy staffing problems more powerfully?
Tier 1 therapies don’t require professional therapists. Instead, the practitioners in your program train teachers and classroom assistants to implement them via a speech therapy game, for example, or an occupational therapy handwriting activity. Because these interventions aren’t restricted to kids on a caseload, they can benefit everyone even as they identify students who may need more help at Tiers 2 and 3.
When you can add more therapeutic supports without adding more professional therapists, you instantly boost your program’s efficiency. You also empower your teaching staff to become “front line” problem solvers for kids with common developmental issues or short-term problems, like an age-appropriate inability to articulate a certain sound, for instance. Because your teachers can now perform therapy triage in the classroom, your professional therapists are free to solely work with students who really need more direct services.
Fewer referrals mean more manageable caseloads. And when your related service providers serve their caseloads in small groups whenever appropriate, your staffing can become even more streamlined and efficient.
Partner With PTS to Transform Your Related Services Program
The MTSS approach to related services is no “silver bullet.” It can require significant shifts in mindset, and a school or even district-wide buy-in from teachers, staff, and families. It demands rigorous, ongoing data collection and analysis to make sure clinicians’ schedules are optimized, and students are making appropriate educational progress.
However, once it’s in place, it can relieve a lot of the personnel pressure your program currently feels. It can be a therapy staffing solution that delivers the right people, doing the right thing, with remarkable results.
Want immediate ways you can take action to maximize your program’s impact in your staffing and beyond? Contact PTS and claim your free related services audit. You’ll get specific, expert suggestions for expanding your program’s power without breaking your budget.