Supporting Our Schools and Students in 2023 through Awareness and Responsiveness
In our supportive and educational roles at Integrative Therapy, we have been responsive to the ongoing and intensive changes that have occurred throughout the pandemic, and we’ve continued to be as we’re moving out of it now in 2023. There’s no road map to bridge growing gaps in increasing student needs and a school’s limited funding and staffing resources. We’re creating that map by drawing from our training, along with behaviors and interactions we’ve experienced, and using that insight to inform how we apply practical solutions.
Students' Higher Emotional Needs and Behavioral Challenges
When we look at the current reality for students of all ages, we know that they have higher emotional needs and more complex behavioral challenges. This may be due, in part, to the effects of Covid-induced change and its significant ongoing impact on our students. As a result, more charter schools are creating federal setting three programs, where most of a student’s day is spent in special education. The classroom and learning environment needs to be structured to support this programming and teachers need more support to carry out trauma-responsive approaches. Seeing this firsthand, we've consulted with teachers on setting up break spaces, environmental modifications, and other creative solutions.
These recognized needs and challenges also align with RESET™, a trauma-informed self-regulation framework developed by Integrative Therapy, which has been successfully put into classrooms since 2018. In early 2023, five schools began implementing Tier 1 RESET™ lessons in the classroom. These schools are benefitting from the on-demand teacher training component of the program and accessing our Integrative Therapy staff classroom instructors who are focused on teaching self-regulation strategies and helping students understand their body sensations and cues (interoception) as they relate their behaviors and emotions. Ultimately this is an empowering solution for the students as they learn to recognize their feelings and take action to help themselves to move through, regulate, and better control their bodies and emotions.
Schools’ Resource Challenges
We’ve witnessed how schools have been charged to do more with less. They are understaffed, staffed with people of various training and experience, and seeking more support for their students. Integrative Therapy, in turn, does an increasing amount of customization per school. We’ve been structuring more groups around sensory breaks, providing para/special education team trainings to support how to work with students, and scheduling ongoing collaboration with the teachers/paras to ensure they feel equipped to do their job.
This type of support highlights a schools’ approach of investing in training for their staff to ensure staff retention. Schools have realized that hiring for staff already qualified in advanced programs and techniques in behavioral health may leave them coming up short due to rapid advancement in the field. Leaning into the training of their current staff is gaining traction. For example, Integrative Therapy’s founder, Heather Schmidt, conducted a two-part para training at Nova Classical Academy to help them understand sensory processing, self-regulation, how to support sensory breaks/sensory-based accommodations on the IEP, as well as how to support motor skills with assistive technology (both low tech (i.e. pencil grips or slant board), and high tech (i.e. Chromebook accessibility features)). Heather also led a 1.5-hour para training at the Brainerd Area Public Schools for 150 paras across PreK - high school on understanding self-regulation and their role in supporting students.
How to Support Your School
If you find your school is experiencing one or more of these challenges, you are not alone. We’d recommend doing your own internal assessment in the areas of resources needed, timing, and funding and then prioritizing these to the best of your ability. Connect with the therapist(s) at your school to ensure you understand where students are at and identify gaps in support. Integrative Therapy is available to provide guidance in these steps and move you into an understanding and plan to invest in programming to support teachers and curriculums that support self-regulation such as RESET™. Schedule an informal information gathering session via this link today!
If you find your school is experiencing one or more of these challenges, reach out, and book a consult with us at: https://calendly.com/integrativeot