Partnering with Service & Medical Professionals for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

A wide range of professionals often work with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In this lesson you will find ideas for teachers to work with these professionals to provide students with the best possible education.

Service Providers and ASD

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can have a wide variety of needs and often work with many service providers. These service providers can include doctors, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, school nurses, psychologists, nutritionists, feeding specialists, and behavioral specialists. There may be providers from both the school and outside agencies such as hospitals and home-based service organizations.

As a classroom teacher, synthesizing information from all of these individuals may seem daunting. However, it is in the student's best interest if all involved service providers can communicate, coordinate, and work together as a team.

All of the service providers involved in the care of a student should work together as a team.

School-based Service Providers

As a teacher, you will be in direct contact with any school-based service providers. At the start of the school year, identify the service providers involved with your students. Establish a time to communicate with each service provider on a regular basis. Do your best to maintain a professional relationship and open communication with each of the school-based service providers. They can give you invaluable support as you pursue student success together.

Each service provider will have a goal or goals for the student. Be aware of these goals, which should be relevant to the student's education. You can work together with the service providers to help the students gain and generalize skills across the school environment. In addition, service providers can help with accommodations for the student, or ways to make the educational environment more accessible.

For example, a speech therapist may have a goal for a student to speak in complete sentences. The speech therapist can share techniques with you, and you can use those to encourage the student to speak in sentences during class. You can share current classroom topics with the speech therapist, who can use relevant academic content to teach communication techniques. An occupational therapist may have accommodations to support students with sensory and attention issues in the classroom. A physical therapist can share ways to both challenge a student and ensure safety during recess, physical education, and regular class transitions.

Community-based Service Providers

Most students with ASD are involved with at least one service provider in a community-based agency. Because ASD can affect a student in all areas of life, service providers may address needs that involve home and family skills as well as school behaviors. Here are some considerations when working with community-based service providers.

Maintain Confidentiality

The first principle concerning community-based service providers is to observe privacy and confidentiality procedures. You should only share information with outside professionals if the parent has given permission, and you should request parent permission before contacting outside professionals for information. That said, most parents see the benefit of interagency cooperation and are eager to grant such permission.

Obtain Reports

If you know a student is seeing an outside professional, ask parents for a copy of any reports generated by the visits. These reports can give you helpful information about the student, especially reports from professionals who have access to resources not available in the school, such as audiology reports, vision reports, and medical reports.

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