Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

Developing Effective Collaboration Teams in Speech-Language Pathology: A Case Study

Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

Developing Effective Collaboration Teams in Speech-Language Pathology: A Case Study

Article excerpt

This article focuses on the development of classroom-based collaborative teams. Over the course of an academic year, two speech-language pathology student clinicians worked with classroom teachers and their assistants to implement a collaborative team model of service delivery in a Head Start Program. Examination of clinician and supervisor daily journal entries illustrates the evolving nature of the collaborative team process. Implications for use of classroom collaboration in speechlanguage pathology training and practice are offered.

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Through collaborative team relationships with classroom teachers, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are able to provide effective services to children with speech and language impairments. A collaborative team approach is an efficient way to foster positive outcomes for children with language impairments (Kaczmarek, Pennington, & Goldstein, 2000; Moore-Brown & Montgomery, 2001). Classroom-based team approaches can be used to target both authentic communication goals and language-based academic goals. For example, providing classroom-based interventions can help preschool children improve their peer interactions, which in turn improves their peers' perceptions of communicative competence, leading to more opportunities for interaction (Goldstein, English, Sharer, & Kaczmarek, 1997). SLPs can utilize curriculum content in intervention sessions to reinforce classroom instruction, whereas teachers can reinforce communication goals in daily activities (Silliman, Ford, Beasman, & Evans, 1999). Thus, effective collaboration between teachers and SLPs can have positive benefits for children with language impairment in daily communicative events and academic achievement.

Various models of collaboration are applicable for SLPs working with other professionals to provide services to children with language impairment. Friend and Cook (2000) defined collaboration as "a style for direct interaction between at least two coequal parties voluntarily engaged in shared decision making as they work toward a common goal" (p. 6). Collaboration may involve working on an interdisciplinary team, either for a short time (making placement decisions) or for a more extended period (developing and implementing interventions for children with special education needs). In schools, collaborative teams may be composed of a number of individuals representing different disciplines, and they may exist across different levels of the organization. In these collaborative teams, certain individuals may assume the role of consultant, depending on the goal. For example, a school psychologist or SLP may consult with a teacher about classroom-based prereferral intervention. Administrators may ask teachers to provide input with respect to classroom needs when a new curriculum is being selected. At a program level, a bilingual SLP may be asked for help with respect to second language learning and deciding when to refer a second language learner for services. Familiarity with models of team development, consultation, and collaboration thus may guide and enhance the collaborative process.

The hallmarks of effective teams include a shared purpose, clear definitions and delineation of roles, and shared leadership (Briggs, 1991; Friend & Cook, 2000). Open discussion--with no hidden agenda--leads to an appreciation of each individual's unique contribution and to efficient, effective decision making (Briggs, 1993). It is important, however, to understand that effective teams do not usually originate as such. Development of an effective team takes time, commitment, and nurturing. This process may involve missteps along the way and needs to be fostered to be successful. According to McCartney (1999), successful collaboration can be threatened by a number of barriers, including individual assumptions concerning the model of collaboration to be used, whether a "strong" or "weak" definition of equal planning and relationship is the goal (Conoley & Conoley, 1982), social barriers (e. …

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