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Joint Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy Sessions; What are they?

Joint speech pathology and occupational therapy sessions have been offered for my child. What does this mean?

When working with children, speech pathologists and occupational therapists often have similar goals or areas of focus that overlap for both clinicians. Interdisciplinary practice is a term used to describe when a team of healthcare professionals (such as speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, doctors, and other allied health professionals) work together as a team towards the same goals in order to provide the best outcomes for their client.

At SPOT this interdisciplinary team consists of an occupational therapist and speech pathologist working closely with your child individually and if there is the opportunity, at the same time in a 'joint therapy session'. Working in this way can help to ensure that your child's goals are being targeted in the most effective way taking into account both speech pathology and occupational therapy perspectives for the same goals.

So how can joint sessions be beneficial?

For your child:

  • Working with both your speech pathologist and occupational therapist at the same time can assist your child's attention and participation in the session. For example: when working on social skills it can be beneficial to include an extra person in the session, this way the child is better able to work on important social skills such as initiating with others, winning and losing, waiting, and sharing.

  • Generally, a quicker and greater response to treatment is seen. By incorporating sensory, emotional regulation, motor skills, and speech and language tasks a more holistic view of your child is taken, setting them up for greater success in their sessions.

  • In day to day life we use communication, social skills, emotional regulation skills, and motor skills all at the same time! Many of the activities planned by therapists can incorporate all of these skills and replicate real life settings in therapy sessions. This can assist your child with using those skills taught in therapy in everyday life!

  • Strategies used and shared with the parents and caregivers is consistent across all sessions. This ensures that your child is learning and being supported in the same way by everyone involved.

For Parents and Caregivers:

  • Joint sessions reduce the amount of time spent at the clinic and in transit to the clinic. Instead of two 45 minute sessions; plus transit time, a single 1 hour joint session can save time in your week.

  • While one therapist interacts with your child, the other therapist can be working one on one with you; explaining strategies, addressing concerns, giving you the tools to support your child at home and in the community.

  • Having both therapists in session at the same time means you are less likely to have to relay information twice and be asked the same questions twice!

For Clinicians:

  • Knowledge is better shared about specific clinical skills when both disciplines are present at the same time. Continued sharing of clinical skills provides more opportunities for learning and skill development for your clinicians. As allied health professionals we are continually up-skilling and learning new strategies, activities and practices in order to best support your child's needs. This constant learning and up-skilling is critical for effective service delivery.

  • Being present at the same time for tasks allows speech pathologists to share key tips and strategies for occupational therapists to use for communication in activities as they are happening; and vice versa occupational therapists can share key tips and insight into fine motor, gross motor, and regulation skills for speech pathologists to be aware of.

  • Joint sessions foster communication between therapists. Often it opens the lines of communication even further and allows therapists and caregivers to be on the same page with goals and how they are going to be achieved.

How do I know if joint sessions will be best for my child? Your therapists may suggest a joint session for your child if they believe it is appropriate and if your child's goals can be targeted together. Generally, joint sessions are offered to children who may have challenges across multiple areas, where the support of both clinicians will optimise the therapy experience and increase effectiveness of therapy. Example: for a child who has communication, sensory and emotional regulation difficulties having an occupational therapist present can help the child and carer co-regulate and calm. Which in turn can help the speech language pathologist achieve more success with their play, interaction or communication goals. For many of our young friends regulation is key. Before communication can progress, a child must be regulated, calm, and in an optimal state of arousal for learning. What is the fee for a joint session? As there are two therapists in the session, the therapy fee is charged per clinician. For example, if your child's session is 45 minutes in length with both the speech pathologist and the occupational therapist in session you would be charged for 2x 45 minute therapy sessions. If you have private health, medicare support or NDIS funding, this can cover part or all of the fee, depending on the type of funding. Both therapists involved in a joint session are still providing their time in the therapy session; before and after for planning, following up with recommendations and documentation; and in cross disciplinary discussions prior to and following the joint session.

For the 45-60 minutes you see us in clinic there is at least the same if not more time spent on our clients to ensure we are providing the best service we can, and we wouldn't have it any other way! The ah-ha moments when a child picks up a new skill, has success at something they've been practising for a long time, or they smiles and shares their delight are what we come to work for each day. We just want to do this the best way that we can!

If you have questions regarding joint therapy sessions or wish to find out more, please don't hesitate to speak with your therapist.

By Isabelle Wagner, Speech Pathologist

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