Meeting Staffing Challenges Head-On

Written by Dan McCool

September 19, 2023

In the world of special education, unforeseen staffing shortages can present challenges, particularly in the disciplines of Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapy’s.  When these critical positions experience a temporary lapse in staffing, it’s essential for school principals and administrators to adopt effective strategies to ensure students continue to receive the support they need to thrive academically and personally. In this article, we’ll explore various approaches that encompass all three disciplines, offering a comprehensive plan to address these shortages.

  1. Hire a Tele-Therapist for Interim Support:
    • Consider bringing in a tele-therapist to provide therapy for students until the necessary licenses for on-site professionals are secured.
    • Utilize Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (SLP-As) as facilitators during tele-therapy sessions to ensure seamless communication.
  2. Temporary Scheduling Adjustments for Current SLPs:
    • Encourage current SLPs to make temporary scheduling adjustments, allowing them to serve larger groups of students for a limited period.
    • This adjustment can free up time slots for more students and bridge the gap until SLP-As are fully licensed.
  3. Communication with Parents:
    • Open and transparent communication with parents is vital. Inform them of the temporary staffing issue and assure them that the school will ensure their child receives all required Individualized Education Program (IEP) minutes.
    • Explain that there may be a reduction in therapy intensity for a short duration, with plans for providing compensatory minutes for missed sessions.
  4. Delay New Evaluations and Prioritize Therapy:
    • Delay any non-urgent evaluations and redirect the focus of the SLP primarily responsible for testing towards direct therapy until the SLP-As are ready.
    • Address any immediate testing needs to prevent timelines from being exceeded.
  5. Teacher Flexibility:
    • Seek additional flexibility from teachers in scheduling therapy sessions to accommodate the situation temporarily.
    • Collaboration and understanding among educators are crucial during these times.
  6. Effective Grouping of Students:
    • Group students whenever possible, ensuring that groups are well-structured and tailored to the specific needs of each student.
    • Group therapy can maximize therapist efficiency and provide peer support.
  7. At-Home Support Materials:
    • Offer additional at-home support materials to students and their parents to promote the generalization of their skills and prevent regression.
    • Utilize automated systems to provide these resources, ensuring easy access for all students.
  8. Exploring Short-Term Help:
    • Consider reaching out to retired SLPs or professionals who may be willing to offer short-term assistance.
    • Explore the possibility of collaborating with neighboring school districts to share resources during times of need.

By implementing these strategies, you can better manage staffing shortages in your SLP, OT, and PT departments, ensuring that students continue to receive the support they require to reach their full potential. Open communication, flexibility, and creative solutions will help maintain the quality of services even in challenging times. Remember, these shortages are often temporary, and a proactive approach can help minimize disruption to students’ educational journeys.

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