Therapy services occur in two different locations – either at a private clinic or within a school. In our article “Understanding the Difference: Clinic-Based vs School-Based Therapy”, we explain how these differ, when they overlap, and what to expect from each environment.
As we near the end of summer, planning and preparation for a return to school is beginning in many households. For parents who have children entering school for the first time, or have recently received a diagnosis, it is time to start determining if school-based therapy is appropriate and coordinating with the special education teams to establish a plan.
If a private evaluation and diagnosis have already been completed, provide these to the special education administrators. Many schools may still want or need to perform their own evaluations, which are often targeted directly towards educational needs, but bringing all testing and information to the school will help get the process moving.
The next step will be determining what sort of special education plan is appropriate. There are two options available through federal guidelines – a 504 plan or an IEP (Individualized Education Plan.)
- A 504 plan aims to make sure that students with disabilities get the accommodations they need to participate in school just as they would if they didn’t have a disability. These are primarily medical or physical disabilities.
- An IEP is more concerned with actually providing educational services for students that require significant remediation and assistance—and are more likely to work on their own level at their own pace. This is primarily for students with learning disabilities.
After receiving the evaluations and diagnoses, a 504 or IEP Team is established. This consists of the parents, teacher, special education teachers, therapists and even administrators in the school. Together, this team will determine the amount, frequency and duration of therapy services, as well as detailed educational accommodations, and a formal plan is created, signed, and put into effect that documents what is expected and required. Every person on the team should be heard and have a say – this especially includes the parents. You know your child best, this is the time to advocate.
As part of this annual planning meeting, goals are created. These are detailed performance metrics to measure a student’s educational growth. During these planning meetings, the therapists providing clinic-based services should be a part of the discussion to ensure the two therapy environments are working collaboratively, not duplicating efforts, and not missing anything as well.
Once the school year begins, the case manager (the person tasked with being the point of contact at the school for the child’s services) will provide regular reports on the student’s growth and performance. At any time, if anyone on the team (parents included) have a concern, a team meeting can be called to discuss and potentially amend the school plan.
At a minimum, the team will meet once a year to review the student’s growth and development, create new goals for the coming year, and add or subtract therapy services as needed.
Establishing special education services at a school may seem overwhelming. There’s testing, long clinical written evaluations, extensive plans with educational terminology, potentially large team meetings – it can quickly feel like a lot. Since many of the therapists at The Speech Pathology Group & Rehab Services also work within the school environment, we are very familiar with the process. Our team is always willing to answer questions and provide feedback on school-based therapy plans. Ultimately, we want the children to succeed and working together with the schools is vitally important. We are here to help our families as they navigate creating school-based services.