I read the book Seals on the Bus to Joey, while he sat with his physical therapist behind him so that he could sit on a bench and not his chair. This isn’t an easy activity for Joey, and he struggled a bit to keep his head up while we read the book and played with the bus and the animal toys. A few times his head fell forward, out of a loss of control and exhaustion from working so hard. Other times he struggled to grab the toys, and his physical therapist helpfully coached me in how to assist him in making his grasp stronger and firmer. At other times, Joey threw himself backwards in the therapist’s, and I watched as she carefully held him, calmed him, and coached him into helping him sit back up.
I love sessions where Joey’s other therapists and I can work together. In the private setting, this happens less than I would like, because it is difficult to make schedules overlap. Yet, every time it works out, I learn something more about Joey’s abilities, even if it pushes me outside of my comfort zone.
Joey’s physical therapist has asked me to find more times during my sessions when Joey can be on the bench. This will interrupt our session a bit, and may make him even less responsive than he otherwise would be to my lessons. BUT. But Joey needs to be able to incorporate his core muscles. He can’t have these individual skills in isolation. His body, mind, and speech all need to work together. So it only makes sense that we would begin incorporating one another’s work into our sessions so that we can help Joey fit the pieces together.
Each of us has a different technique and style that works for Joey, and he’s become pretty good at knowing what to do for each of us individually. So, in some ways I think we blow his mind when we are together. We disrupt his balance of “I use the talky with you, but I use my Yes/No cards with you.” By being together, we are not just helping us put everything together, but him as well.
In the school setting, children are used to their therapists and teachers working together, because everyone is together in one building, and are hold to the same legal paperwork that ties them together. In private work, each individual teacher or therapist has to work to take time to connect with one another, spend time touching base on goals, strategies, and sharing information that will help Joey.
It’s easy for each of us to get set in our specialties and forget the importance of all the other skills a student needs. And at times it can seem that speech is the most important, or that the ability to hold ones’ self up is more important, or that cognitively being able to think and make decisions is important. Yet we can forget that a child is all of these different elements of the self working together. What’s more, how a child develops in one area impacts the child’s other developmental areas.
A child’s ability to explore the world with gross motor movements, or even the ability to hold items and drop them into a bucket, impacts’ the development of the child’s visual/spatial reasoning. The development of visual/spatial reasoning can then impact the child’s sense of security in the world, which can interfere with how he connects with people around him. This can limit his opportunities for communication, which limits speech. It’s not easy to step outside our specialties, but it’s vital that our students are treated as whole individuals, and that we find time to collaborate and work together.
It is impossible for any of us to have all the answers in our individual disciplines. It’s what we can learn from each other, and how we help Joey’s different systems to connect and work together that will help Joey grow.