Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Autistic Student and the Importance of Teamwork in Problem Solving

Image: C2 holds a sign that I received at START training. It says "Saying this will not work is NOT an option." The sign was meant to remind school teams that they should consider all ideas while attempting to problem solve.

The teams that are built to support any student with an Individualized Educational Plan can be large. The size of the team depends on the needs of the student. My child's team that attends START includes me, his special education teacher, his general education teacher, his principal, his occupational therapist, and his speech therapist. He also has a social worker and a physical therapist.

I'm fortunate that I have a team that gets along well, but I know that we all have heard stories where this isn't always the case. There can be personality conflicts or conflicting ideas of what should happen. Or, even if everyone gets along, a meeting can be run so inefficiently that nothing is accomplished. Hence, it is in the best interest of everyone that meetings go smoothing in order to identify and solve problems interfering with the student's learning process and accomplishment of goals.

That is why we were trained immediately in Meeting Mechanics, which was a primary focus for Module 1. We learned problem identification, problem specification, brainstorming, clustering/prioritizing, identifying implementation variables, and assigning responsibilities.

We were taught to perceive all team members as equal regardless of position and that "all ideas are good ideas" (well at least until they are fully deliberated by the team. The "all ideas are good ideas" rule is meant to give everyone a chance to present their ideas to the team without feeling intimidated. We were also taught to avoid sidebar conversations, which are little conversations in the group that doesn't include everyone.

I realize this post doesn't fully cover or explain the notion of Meeting Mechanics, but what I do want to point out is that this system does seem like an efficient and fair way to run meetings. I believe that all teams working to support a student with autism should be trained in this or something similar to make sure that the student's needs are addressed. So far, I am impressed.


Casdok said...

Sounds an excellent idea and very productive. I have spent many wasted hours in IEP meetings.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I have spent and continue to spend numerous hours working with everyone on my daughter's team. I do not wait for the IEP meeting. It is a daily thing. I think that all parents, especially those who have children with special needs, should be deeply involved with EVERYONE that works with their child. I contribute my daughter's continued success with the team we all have. We all agree that Autism can be frustrating and there are barriers to overcome and when we see a barrier, we all pool together to break it down. IEP meetings usually end up in a review process.

Corrie Howe said...

Julie, this is great. I'd love to hear more. Does every IEP spend time in this training? And do they do the training together? For example, as soon as your son gets an IEP, you and all the team members do this training together?

I guess it would be hard, because the same SLP, principal, special ed teacher, etc. don't need to sit through 160 trainings (which is how many IEP we have in our school.)

Julie L. said...

Casdok: Yep, it's great when IEP meetings are conducted efficiently.

Anonymous: It's great you are so involved with your daughter's education. As parents, we know our children best, so it's important that we help out the IEP team so they can provide the best service possible. Yeah, quite a bit of reviewing does go on in IEP meetings.

Corrie: No, not everyone who has a child with ASD and an IEP gets to participate in START. One focus child was chosen per school. Approx four school districts are participating. A university oversees START which has been going around to different districts in my state of Michigan for nine years now. Their goal is to train all the districts in the state. It's a grant funded program. The idea is that one team which includes therapists, teachers and the principal train learn how to apply the concepts to one child at first and then later apply them to other children with ASD in the school. My child was chosen because he was struggling last spring. It's been a real blessing because he's still struggling and we're learning things that are helping.

Hope that helps. Feel free to ask more questions. : )