In our previous post we looked at a classroom through an occupational therapist's point of view. In our second post, we will look at the classroom through a new set of eyes - in this case, the speech and language therapist! Speech and language pathologists work to support children who are experiencing difficulties with communication. The areas that a speech and language pathologist may address include: articulation, language, voice, fluency, and swallowing. Per the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), children with a speech and/or language impairment may struggle with participating in classroom activities, interacting with others, developing literacy, and learning.
What Are Natural Environments?
In Early Intervention, "natural environments" are emphasized as the primary and most desired setting for therapeutic and educational services, and are included in the legislation mandating EI services (Part C of IDEA). In the school system, "least restrictive environment" is a related concept, though not as intuitively understood. However, both concepts emphasize participation in typical settings, or those that non-disabled peers access. Examples of natural settings in the schools might look like:
A speech therapist supporting literacy instruction at the elementary level, a social studies group project in middle school, or interview practice in the high school.
An occupational therapist supporting writing centers at the elementary level, a cooking task in home economics in middle school, or a driver's education course in high school.
A physical therapist supporting recess participation in the elementary school, participation in team sports in middle school, or accessing community and vocational environments at the high school level.
How To Incorporate Natural Environments Into Practice
What can inclusion look like? In our last post on including therapy sessions in the classroom, we talked about the range of service delivery models, from individual, pull-out sessions, to providing individual support within the classroom routine. In this post, we share two references that discuss what inclusion can look like in the school setting.