A 10-minute call with an occupational therapist
“Cayson” is 5. He is hyperlexic (meaning, he accurately reads words well beyond what would be expected at his age, but he doesn’t link meaning to them) and has a very difficult time with spelling. When I first met Cayson, he was unable to write any sounds, letters, or words. Additionally, he had an incredibly difficult time with handwriting. Pencil grip, letter formation, letter spacing, and word spacing are just a few areas of writing mechanics that were tremendously challenging for him. Cayson had been working on handwriting with an occupational therapist, yet his poor writing mechanics continued to be quite the obstacle for our spelling work.
In the clinical and academic worlds, it is important to recognize how multiple components of a child’s profile interact. For instance, Cayson’s poor letter formation was putting an extra burden on his spelling; both of which were areas of challenge. Instead of ignoring the handwriting component, and deeming it “outside of my scope”, I called his occupational therapist (OT).
In a 10-minute call with his OT, I learned about key resources that would not only help Cayson but would benefit my other students, too. It only a few minutes for him to explain that Redi-Space and Hi-Write paper are two resources that are incredibly beneficial for Cayson. He also shared the “handwriting checklist” that he uses every time Cayson puts pencil to paper.
Since having this call with Cayson’s occupational therapist, I have used Redi-Space and Hi-Write paper with many of my students. I’ve also shared the resource(s) with parents, teachers, and other clinicians. In that one phone call that took up as much time as a social media scroll, I gained knowledge about a related field that has not only helped me as a clinician but has benefited a number of my, and my colleagues, students.
Now, why is this topic worthy of a blog post? I have no connection to Redi-Space or Hi-Write products; I can’t say for sure that these two resources will work for the students or children of those of you reading this. But, what I can say for sure, is that taking the time to collaborate with professionals outside of your field is critical. When I say collaboration, I don’t just mean to go through the motions of talking with them. I mean to really listen and to do your best to implement their suggestions.
Far too often, professionals operate in a vacuum. We only focus on our specific goals, and we fail to recognize how tangential areas of a student’s profile relate to the targets we are working on. Similarly, we often become so rooted in our own ways that we are unable to take a step back and see our students from a different clinician or academic perspective. Our student’s progress depends on us getting out of our own way and collaborating with their other stakeholders. Clinicians, teachers, family members- we are all a team with shared desires for our students. By taking 10 minutes out of our days to connect, collaborate, and join forces, we will help our students develop skills that can be generalized across settings and tasks so the work we do with them can be far-reaching and lead to independence and success.
There is always time for collaboration! I have found that some of my most effective and worthwhile meetings have happened in 15 minutes or less. Don’t be afraid to schedule short, efficient conversations.
Put your ego aside. It is okay to not be an expert in everything! We should all always be learning, questioning, and advancing our knowledge.
Trust, but verify. Just because someone says something will work, doesn’t mean it always does. Be open to hearing advice, but then use your own unbiased clinical judgment and evidence-based research to decide if it’s worth following.
Make sure to get consent from parents before speaking with other providers.
Encourage collaboration between your student’s clinicians, teachers, and all important stakeholders.
It is in your best interest to be transparent and upfront about who your child is seeing.
Be direct about what services your child is working on with each provider. Doing so will not only make for better clinical treatment and collaboration between providers, but it will also help you monitor the services your child is receiving and prevent unnecessary crossover.
Follow up with your clinician(s) to see how the strategies and resources are translating across settings.
Inquire about what you can do at home. Are there certain strategies or activities your clinician(s) recommend? Are there resources you can make available at home? Don’t be afraid to ask!
As always, email email@example.com with any questions or comments about this post. Or, if you’re interested in connecting with The Learning Doctor, visit www.seattlelearningdoctor.com to inquire about a free consultation.