Summer in the City: Baltimore Program Recruits SLPs to Help Students When school ended last June, thousands of children in the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) still needed approximately 70,000 hours of compensatory special education and therapy services. The district has been under a long-standing consent decree to make up special education and therapy services to students enrolled in special ... School Matters
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School Matters  |   November 01, 2006
Summer in the City: Baltimore Program Recruits SLPs to Help Students
Author Notes
  • Jean Blosser, is vice president for therapy programs and quality at Progressus Therapy, Baltimore, MD. She is the founding coordinator of ASHA Division 10, Issues in Higher Education, and has given numerous presentations and has published widely on issues of school-based service delivery. Contact her at jean.blosser@educate.com.
    Jean Blosser, is vice president for therapy programs and quality at Progressus Therapy, Baltimore, MD. She is the founding coordinator of ASHA Division 10, Issues in Higher Education, and has given numerous presentations and has published widely on issues of school-based service delivery. Contact her at jean.blosser@educate.com.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / School Matters
School Matters   |   November 01, 2006
Summer in the City: Baltimore Program Recruits SLPs to Help Students
The ASHA Leader, November 2006, Vol. 11, 4-27. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM1.11162006.4
The ASHA Leader, November 2006, Vol. 11, 4-27. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM1.11162006.4
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  • Deirdre Haywood traveled to Baltimore to do the rewarding work of helping students who have communication problems.
When school ended last June, thousands of children in the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) still needed approximately 70,000 hours of compensatory special education and therapy services. The district has been under a long-standing consent decree to make up special education and therapy services to students enrolled in special education programs. The service gap and the subsequent need for compensatory services are the result of many challenges the district faced over the past several years: a critical shortage of qualified professionals, high numbers of students with disabilities, and caseloads of students who need complex services.
Like many school districts, BCPSS has offered summer services to students; attendance and motivation, however, are often low. This past summer, BCPSS decided to offer services to children within the context of the summer school program, with services embedded into classroom activities and routines.
The decision to implement a collaborative service delivery model and to integrate the intervention within the classrooms was based on a model program piloted in BCPSS in its 2006 spring semester after-school program, according to Pam Bowman, interim director of the BCPSS Related Services Unit. “Our positive experience with the pilot program encouraged us to use that model for summer service delivery,” she said.
Due to the usual decreases in summer staffing, the BCPSS was challenged to find sufficient speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists (OTs) to meet the projected summer school attendance. Progressus Therapy offered BCPSS an innovative solution: the company would recruit SLPs and OTs to Baltimore. A project plan, “The Baltimore Summer Experience,” was developed, and the company brought 40 SLPs and OTs from across the country to Baltimore for the month-long BCPSS summer program. The solution was a “win-win” for the district, for clinicians who wanted summer work, and especially for the BCPSS students who needed intervention services. As a result, children in the BCPSS special education programs received almost 3,600 hours of speech-language and occupational intervention.
The clinicians who participated in the Baltimore Summer Experience in July and early August brought years of experience from some of the most complex school districts across the country. Most prepared in advance by taking an online course, “Partnering with Teachers for Effective Service Delivery.” In addition, each clinician received therapy materials to reinforce the collaborative approach to service delivery, and copies of the summer program academic curriculum.
Logistics
Prior to their arrival, clinicians did not know the caseload, district procedures, program goals, summer school format, or documentation requirements. Flexibility became our mantra as we organized and made arrangements in advance. Four Progressus Therapy managers worked closely with BCPSS speech-language and occupational therapy administrators to manage and schedule services for hundreds of students in dozens of school buildings throughout Baltimore. A few clinical fellows were among the SLPs who traveled to Baltimore. Recently graduated, they quickly experienced the realities of school-based intervention and also learned innovative strategies for meeting the demands.
Travel and lodging in downtown apartments were arranged for about 30 of the participants who joined the 10 Baltimore-based therapists for the program. The environment fostered collaboration and joint problem-solving. Ensuring their safety and creating ways for them to enjoy their summer away from home were high priorities. They enjoyed a crab feast, double-decker bus tours, the National Aquarium, an Orioles baseball game, sightseeing in Annapolis, and much more. They also visited the national offices of ASHA and the American Occupational Therapy Association, both located in Maryland. The visits increased participants’ understanding of the many ways our professional organizations help them succeed in their school-based positions. They were most impressed by the national focus on efforts to reduce caseloads and provide continuing education to keep clinicians aware of trends.
Innovative Partnerships
The summer intervention program was successful because of the high level of collaboration as Progressus Therapy and BCPSS administrators partnered to execute the plan. Bowman of BCPSS brought together educators and service providers to discuss the goals and design for the summer program. Progressus Therapy managers attended all of the training sessions and joined in some of the planning meetings.
Service providers and teachers were brought on board through an orientation meeting before summer school began. “The SLPs, OTs, teachers, and other educators were informed of the embedded service delivery model to be used, the importance of collaboration, the summer school framework, useful materials, and expectations for quality teaching and services,” Bowman said. The training incorporated materials such as observation forms, teacher checklists, and other resources on educator-clinician collaboration.
Even though the clinicians who participated in the Baltimore Summer Experience were new to the district, they were eager to collaborate with their new teacher colleagues to integrate their services into the classrooms. They linked their intervention programs, which were based on the students’ Individualized Education Programs, to the Voyager curriculum used district-wide in the Summer Learning Program. Time for collaboration was built into each summer school day.
Most exciting was the collaboration that evolved among the clinicians who participated in the program, most of whom did not know one another prior to arriving in Baltimore. As they lived and worked together for the month, they spent time collaborating to develop intervention plans and activities and to brainstorm strategies for accomplishing intervention goals. Oneida Chi and Eliza Thompson, SLPs from California, plan to implement more collaboration in their programs in the coming school year as a result of their experiences this summer. “The Baltimore Summer Experience not only helped me to increase my clinical skills and further my knowledge base, but also allowed me to work with other therapists in a much-needed area with an amazing group of kids,” Thompson said.
Feedback from teachers and summer program administrators about the intervention program has been very positive, Bowman said. She attributes these positive results to two factors—teachers’ observations of how a student’s disability impacts learning and how the intervention strategies improve the student’s performance, and the growth in understanding by providers of the complex demands of the school curriculum.
The success of this program demonstrates the value of creating partnerships to find solutions to challenges. All of us who were involved with this program attribute our success to the willingness of BCPSS administrators to collaborate with Progressus Therapy to try an innovative solution; the flexibility and high-quality skills of our clinicians who were willing to move to Baltimore for a month to help children; and a service delivery model that fostered collaboration between teachers and clinicians.
Collaboration, joint problem-solving, and the dedication of many professionals made a difference for hundreds of children in Baltimore this summer.
References
Blosser, J. & Neidecker, E.A. (2002). School Programs in Speech-Language Pathology: Organization and Service Delivery. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Blosser, J. & Neidecker, E.A. (2002). School Programs in Speech-Language Pathology: Organization and Service Delivery. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.×
Blosser, J. (2006). Partnering with Teachers for Effective Service Delivery. Online course. www.speechpathology.com.
Blosser, J. (2006). Partnering with Teachers for Effective Service Delivery. Online course. www.speechpathology.com.×
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November 2006
Volume 11, Issue 16