We hear a lot of great discussion over the importance of collaborating with other professionals in order to best serve our students. Working with teachers, parents and other therapists is incredibly important and benefits our students in numerous ways. But how about student-clinician collaboration? If they are the target of our services, shouldn’t we also focus on making them active participants in the therapy process?
Collaborating with students in speech therapy is especially effective when working with middle and high school students. Working with adolescents has its own set of unique challenges, participation and motivation being the most prominent! I’ve found that taking time to collaborate with students not only enhances their engagement, but helps them to take responsibility for their learning and ability to advocate for themselves.
I like to spend the bulk of our first few sessions talking about why they come to speech and creating “buy-in” for therapy. In our first session we talk about their speech/language goals: what they are and how they impact academic, social and work life. I also like to give students the chance to discuss their own strengths and areas of challenge. I also like to start the year with student and clinician commitments.
Here are commitment forms that I like to use with my students. I suggest reading it with your students and asking them to sign and date the form. You will notice that the focus is not on meeting goals, behaviors or learning strategies — it’s all about EFFORT! If you would like to read about my strategy for addressing behaviors and establishing group expectations, check out my blog post here.
Remember, you need to provide a rationale for them to sign the form. Talk to them about the plan for therapy and, if your student is able, collaborate on goals together. The nice thing about a commitment form thing is that you can give them a copy and also keep the original handy. Every now and then you might need to pull it out and remind them of their commitment why they agreed to work hard when they started!
If we ask a lot of our students, it’s fair for them to ask a lot from us! If we are setting up a collaborative student-therapist relationship, WE also need to commit to our students. I also tell my students to hold me to my commitment — if I’m not doing what I said I would do, they have the right to call me out! You can access this form here.
With older students, I find that it’s important to let them know that I do not want to tell them what to do; rather we need to work together to discover ways that I can help them. I think a good amount of discussion around these commitments is time well spent. What a nice way to begin the school year!