Since working in a school setting I have been building inter-professional relationships with staff, children and parents. As well as other OT students conducting research at the school and working in teams during clinical skills on a Friday. The main inter-professional relationship has been with my peer, we travelled from the UK together and work together during all our sessions on placement.
One of the biggest differences from this placement compared to my previous placement is that my educator is not employed as an OT but actually is a highly qualified OT with managerial experience, now employed as an INCO meaning inclusion coordinator. Our educator uses her OT skills for her role as an INCO and she keeps her OT registration up to date, uses OT frames of reference and models of practice, however, her employment status means part of her role includes being part of the senior management team. It is clear to see in the school that there is regular OT input at a high level, this is evident through the sensory motor room being on site and a multitude of sensory equipment and resources in regular use.
Another aspect of the INCO role is attending all IEP (individual education plan) meetings, if our educator was employed as an OT, the likelihood would be that she would only attend IEP meetings of children that were currently in receipt of OT. Having INCO on SMT ensures all children with an IEP and their families benefit from OT input, advice and recommendations that will help the children to engage in the school curriculum.
This means that ‘OT’s students in this setting have a responsibility to promote the profession and philosophy of OT. The CAOT (2002) define the OT role in school as “improving the student’s performance of tasks and activities important for successful school functioning,” (p15). I feel I have taken on this responsibility by building effective relationships with teachers and especially LSA staff. A lot of the children I have supported, I have been able to make recommendations to LSA, they implement strategies with the children and then we evaluate together. Collaborating with teachers is fundamental to effective OT within schools and ensures holistic practice (Rodger & Zivani 2006).
Some aspects of working collaboratively have been difficult, largely communication. The teachers goals and OT goals can often be different and as a student on placement you can feel reluctant about expressing too much what the OT goals are, as you feel the teacher has superiority over you. As I reflect upon this, I feel when working collaboratively, nobody has superior or inferior roles, but you work as a team and try to do what is in the best interest of the child, thus ensuring client-centred practice. Kennedy and Stewart (2012) have identified that there is often a leader within collaborative teams, it is usually the person with most experience, they felt children’s goals are devised by a team of people; child, teacher, family and OT. Their study showed in Australia that OT, teacher relationships are mostly positive especially if a good rapport is built initially. Kennedy & Stewart (2012) recognise a potential barrier could be that teachers can be defensive and reluctant to change. However, I feel with keeping communicate effective and remaining client centred this will be a good start to effective collaborative working within a school setting.
For me, this placement has taken place in a new country. Luckily for me the language has not been to much of a barrier since English is used regularly world wide and the schooling in mostly English. The main impact language and culture have had on collaborative team working, is extending the time it took to build a rapport with OT students in clinical skills and with the teachers at school. I say this because, it takes longer to understand the humor of other cultures, initially understanding new accents was difficult and I am aware that people found it difficult to understand mine on occassions. It has also been challenging when colleagues are having a conversation in their own language around you and you cant understand.
Peer supervision has been a great way of reflecting upon these challenges, especially since we are going through similar experiences. Working so closely with somebody, it has been really important to have supervision together, in this open, honest time we explore each others strengths, needs and areas for development. Knowing you can be completely honest with somebody to me helps build trust and trust is an asset to an effective collaborative working team. Stewart (2012) will agree with this and he explained the benefits of reflection as health care students.
This is an interesting topic with lots of evidence to explore, let me know if you have any thoughts on collaborative working in a school setting.
NOTE TO FAMILY: Lush chat with mum tonight on the phone! Hope you feel better soon, make those sniffles go away!
CAOT (2002) How occupational therapy makes a difference in the school system:A summary of the literature. Available at: <http://www.caot.ca/pdfs/otinschools.pdf> [Accessed: 26.10.12]
Kennedy, S .,Stewart. H, (2012) Collaboration with teachers: A survey of South Australian occupational therapists’ perceptions and experiences. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal (2012) 59, 147–155
Rodger, S. & Ziviani, J. (2006). Occupational therapy with children:
Understanding children’s occupations and enabling participation.
Stewart, J. (2012): Reflecting on reflection: increasing health and social care students’ engagement and enthusiasm for reflection, Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 13:5, 719-733