Speech language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists work to to identify, evaluate and treat children in settings that meet their academic, family and social needs. We work in a variety of settings but most commonly children are receiving services through a “school setting” and/or a “clinic setting”. Parents looking for services for their child will sometimes ask which of the two service settings will be most beneficial. The answer really is, both. Here’s why:
Qualifying:School and clinic settings hold different criteria to determine whether a child is appropriate and would be considered “qualifying” for services. Both settings use standardized tests, parent report and take into consideration the child’s strengths and weaknesses. School districts evaluate to determine the child’s areas of need to improve academic success. Depending on the school district, there can be a variety of screenings and teacher based interventions that will be attempted before a formal evaluation is completed. Clinic therapists evaluate and make treatment recommendations based on the needs in home, school and community settings. Qualifying for clinic services is not only determined by performance on tests but take into consideration the child’s overall functioning. These services are often covered by their insurance company when scores indicate a significant need.
Expertise: Therapists recognized by their state and national organizations are qualified to work in either setting however therapists in the school district most often also hold a department of education licensure. Both settings have access to equally qualified and trained professionals. Therapists in both settings have a wide array of experience, continuing education and resources.
Goal Focus: Services provided in the school setting are tailored to improve the skills of the student within the academic setting. This includes the child’s ability to use speech and language skills to communicate, improve literacy skills, develop fine motor skills for writing and navigating their school environment safely and to the best of their potential. The clinic setting allows the therapist to develop similar goals which may allow the child to be successful in any setting he or she may be involved including school, home, community, daycare, etc. Goals can be easily adjusted in the clinic setting to suit the child’s and family’s changing needs.
Documentation: Within the school, services are described and monitored via an IEP (Individualized Education Program) or an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan), which is a legally binding document once signed and in place. This includes regular meetings and input from the student’s teachers and other academic providers. In the clinic, progress is reported to the family, the child’s physician and if appropriate, the insurance company.
Treatment: Within the school, services can be provided within the classroom setting, often referred to as the “push-in model”. This allows the service provider to facilitate learning within a setting that is most natural, in collaboration with his or her teacher while monitoring the student’s progress first hand. The student may also be pulled out of their classroom to develop their skills in a one-on-one setting or within a group. The duration of the visits can vary from 5 minutes to 60 minutes, and up to several times per week. The clinic setting allows a one-on-one interaction allowing for dynamic activities and custom treatment approaches; fresh ideas sent home with parents following each session. In the clinic, the therapist designs activities and learning opportunities specifically for the child’s interests and needs. Sessions can range from 30 minutes to a hour.
Taking a Team Approach: Both treatment settings offer a connection with a skilled professional with the child’s learning as top priority. Parents are able to seek and obtain services in both settings to determine the best fit for their child. Also, parents can request that their school and clinic therapists collaborate to bridge the gap between settings. Another strategy for success includes finding time to connect with your SLP/OT/PT on a regular basis either via phone call, email or during the first or last 5-10 minutes of your clinic visit. As always, ask your therapist or service provider if you have any questions about how to initiate services in either of these settings.