Improving quality of life for the differently abled Children & Adults

COLLABORATION

Rich Maston, Clinical Director

Interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, collaborative. These are terms that are commonly being thrown around to describe more recent approaches to health care-related services. In fact, Lauren’s Institute for Education was focused on such concepts before we had a team of therapists, or even a roof for them to work under. But what do these terms really mean to the staff at L.I.F.E. and the families we serve?

Essentially, an interdisciplinary approach brings different types of professionals, family members and caretakers, together in order to better meet the complex needs of the individual receiving treatment. Such collaboration includes joint communication and decision making from all participating team members, and values each team member’s contributions equally, rather than establishing a hierarchy within the team. This approach assumes a common set of “patients”, an agreed upon set of goals to work towards, and that each team member will work within their own scope of practice. Bringing a team of professionals from different disciplines together is not without its challenges. To truly be successful in a collaborative model, certain beliefs must be held and practiced by all participating team members. These values include trust, open and honest communication, mutual respect, shared responsibility, and a commitment to being highly educated in one’s own discipline. Sounds great, right? Well, it isn’t quite that easy.

I often remind people that we don’t pour cups of coffee for a living at Lauren’s Institute for Education, not that there isn’t honor in that profession as well – just ask our therapists how much they value their morning coffee. However, providing critical developmental services to individuals with special needs carries great significance to the families we serve, and teams of professionals brought together for a common cause can get complicated sometimes. Things like trust, mutual respect and open communication are often challenging obstacles to navigate, but when done with pure intentions and a strong commitment to a common goal, the results can simply be astounding.

Regardless of how well a team of therapists might work together, it cannot be considered a true interdisciplinary team without the participation of the parents or caretakers. In 2011, we are refocusing our interdisciplinary efforts, and one of the ways we are pursuing this goal is by holding collaborative team meetings every Tuesday and Thursday at 12:00pm at our facility in Gilbert. Many of these meetings will be scheduled around our consumers’ Individual Support Plan (ISP) meeting dates, but can be scheduled at other times if necessary. The purpose of these meetings will be to:
• review progress towards functional outcomes
• evaluate the effectiveness of teaching strategies
• identify any barriers to a successful treatment environment
• celebrate the accomplishments made, both large and small

We look forward to working closely with our families as we recommit ourselves to an interdisciplinary approach in 2011.

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