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Collaboration is one of those fancy words that got thrown around in college a lot. And for good reason. Collaboration makes us better special education teachers because of all those cliches “two brains are better than one” and so on. However, when you are part of a team, writing IEPs together and working to improve the lives of children with autism and other special needs, it is essential. Because students and their brains do not exist in isolation. What the OT and the speech pathologist and other SEITs are working on, all affect how your student is performing academically. That is why Collaboration as a SEIT is very important and worth the effort.
Pop Quiz, do you know what your coworkers are doing? Not right this second of course. You aren’t a stalker (I hope).
But seriously, do you know what goals they have and what they’re working on with your students?
No shame if you don’t. I can’t say I know each provider on every case. If I’m being honest I haven’t actually even met all of them.
I think we can all agree that is not ideal. Ultimately collaboration is better and in the long term will get better results for your students.
As difficult as it might be to collaborate and be in contact with people, there are tons of benefits that help improve your student’s performance, and make you feel more confident when dealing with problems.
In this post, we’re going to cover the benefits of collaboration, what to tell your coworkers, and tips for improving team communication.
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Collaboration as a SEIT Helps
If you are a SEIT or traveling homeschool teacher, you don’t have a set workspace, which means getting to know your coworkers can be a challenge and require extra effort. There is no break room to chill in.
However, it is well worth the effort. Collaboration has numerous benefits, and not just for the students, but also for the teachers.
It gives you a chance to get to know other people in the field. It’s a great way to network!
Several jobs I have gotten have been because a fellow SEIT who worked with me and liked me recommended me to the student’s parents.
On top of that, many coworkers have taught me tons about techniques and even offered me training. Working with them made me a better teacher!
Collaboration with the right people makes you better at your job. And if you’re better at your job it helps the students on all your cases.
Collaboration helps your Students
Collaboration also helps your students more explicitly than just making you better at your job. Let’s look at a for instance.
If your student is working with their speech pathologist on organizing steps to simple tasks and crafts and you know the Occupational Therapist is working with your student on fine motor skills then you can support them by giving your student extra chances to practice these two skills.
If you bake with your students have them organize the various steps before you begin the task and then have them scoop and pour all ingredients into the bowl.
You just gave them extra chances to practice their skills from speech and OT which will help them achieve their goals faster and make sure the skills generalize.
On top of that, if there is a problem and you need to take it to the parents or higher-ups, it’s always smart to check in with the other providers first. If they feel the same way then you can bring it to the parent’s attention together.
People are more likely to take you seriously if multiple people on the team agree there is an issue.
This is the strategy I have used to get multiple kids off constant screen time or to tell parents and case managers that I think a child is in the wrong setting.
When advocating for your students there is power in numbers.
How to Collaborate with Other Providers
If you hate talking to people, like me, it can be a challenge, but it has to be done.
When I start a case the first thing I like to do is ask the parents for each provider’s contact info. If the child goes to school, I also request their classroom teacher’s email.
Then I send out a quick email introducing myself. Depending on how long they’ve been on the case, I also ask for tips and tricks. This shows open-mindedness and that you’re willing to learn.
People want to work with you more if you’re friendly.
Make sure you have an idea of what everyone on the case is working on and what concerns they have.
If you work well together, go into details about any issues you’re having to make sure you’re addressing them from multiple angles.
For example the other day a coworker called me because she was concerned about impulse control in one of our students. I agreed with her and now we are both working on impulse control in different areas of his life.
I play games with him and work on helping him learn not to grab pieces or skip turns. She works with him on using other techniques to express frustration and breathing so he doesn’t rip up his school work.
For more information on autism and impulse control, click here!
Don’t be intimidated to reach out to coworkers, even if they’ve never reached out to you. I once emailed someone, and she apologized for not doing it first, saying it had been years since she’d had another SEIT on her team and that she was happy to not be on her own anymore. She’d totally forgotten to check-in.
People can surprise you!
What if another provider is difficult?
That happens sometimes and everyone doesn’t always work well together.
I once worked with another SEIT who whenever I called her would just talk about how much she hated the case or she’d try to ask if she could have the student during my scheduled times. Then she’d yell at me when I wasn’t able to accommodate last-minute schedule changes.
I also once worked with someone who said she was not obligated to email me about what she was doing in her sessions. That told me she was doing nothing and didn’t want me to find out.
(SIDE NOTE: If someone asks you how your sessions are going and you get defensive they’re automatically going to think that you aren’t doing your job. So don’t get defensive.)
Did I quit those cases over those people? No.
In fact, both of them left within a year of those incidents.
If you reach out and they won’t collaborate then that’s on them and not you.
If it ever becomes an issue or interferes with your work, let the supervisor on the case know about the issue and move on with your life. Do your job and do it well.
We all have too much to do to let toxic people get us down.
Quick Tips for Improving Collaboration as a SEIT
- Set a reminder once a month to email the check-in with other people on your team.
- If the case requires monthly meetings, attend them
- Send meaningful emails to the team celebrating any successes you have
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for tips and feedback
- Invite other people to do the same
- Keep emails short and to the point
- Text about urgent matters only (You don’t want to be annoying)
- Build a community
- Ask about people’s lives if you meet in person
- Always be pleasant and open
- Send greetings for holidays and birthdays
A big part of collaboration is making yourself pleasant to talk to. So make sure to be upbeat all the time! (jokes)
Be your authentic self, and people will like you. A big part of getting along with others is confidence and listening. People want to feel heard.
Don’t stress too much over it, because as I’ve lined out collaboration is supposed to make your life easier.
After all, that’s why we’re part of a team! We’re supposed to use and rely on one another!
And in the spirit of collaboration, find me on Instagram and let me know how collaboration has helped you be a better teacher!