Our Approach: Integrated Therapy
Within District 47's early childhood program, related services--such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and others--are delivered within the context of the classroom as much as possible, a practice known as integrated therapy. Integrated therapy promotes development of skills within activities and environments typical for young children with consideration for applications in a school setting. Integrated therapy is any type of therapy that is defined by taking place during activities that:
- are developmentally appropriate and functional for all children;
- work toward a goal that is important for the child and his/her family;
- increase self-esteem;
- help foster empathy; and
- support the child in his or her natural environment.
It is the therapist's judgment to determine the need for pull-out therapy and consultation. Parents are encouraged to implement the strategies taught and consider home and community opportunities to supplement or enhance their child’s classroom experience.
Direct Therapy vs. Integrated Therapy
Research has shown that for children of preschool age and older, an integrated therapy approach fosters the most gains. Skills acquired in an isolated environment, such as that between child and therapist only, do not readily transfer from that isolated environment to the preschool classroom or home. Typically, children younger than 3 years of age are not in therapy with only the therapist; parents usually are present and trained to practice the skills at home. Additionally, integrated therapy permits all staff working with the child to learn the therapy techniques being used, as they are present in the classroom. This way, many of the same techniques can be used even when the therapist is not in the classroom. Direct therapy services are provided by many area hospitals and private therapy centers. However, it should be noted that the cost for these services will be incurred by the family.
Integrated Therapy in the Classroom
Therapists can readily adapt the child’s classroom environment for optimum performance by using developmentally appropriate curriculum, materials and activities. One goal can be worked on while the child is doing many different activities. For example, therapists can extend theme-based activities already planned by the classroom teacher to extend a child’s opportunities to work on a particular goal. Therapists can also observe the child’s success in using a newly acquired skill and better determine future goals for that child. In general, therapists are more easily accepted by the children as another teacher, facilitating more readily a positive relationship between the child and therapist.
Private Therapy Services
District policy prohibits Wehde staff from working outside school hours with a student on his/her caseload as this could be considered a conflict of interest. If a child receives private therapy outside the District, parents are encouraged to let his or her child’s teacher know, provide the therapist’s contact information, and sign a release of information form so a cohesive therapy program can be provided.