Social-Pathologist-Behavior-Worker-Therapist-Type Person
Published on October 10, 2011 by Jennifer Laviano

True confession: when I was in junior high and high school I LOVED General Hospital. I admit it. I loved it even though I knew it was ludicrous. It’s an embarrassing but true part of my past.

One of the things that I realized about the show as I got older was just how silly it was that the doctors seemed to be completely and thoroughly cross-trained and Board-certified in every possible specialty of medicine imaginable, so long as the plot would allow that doctor to continue on the scene. So, you’d have a “world-renowned neuro-surgeon” who would suddenly announce in the elevator shaft that he was also a trained orthopedic surgeon who could perform a highly complex arm amputation when another character’s arm got lodged in the elevator. Weeks later that same doctor is wooing a single mother with his newly-polished pediatric skills as he examines her sick child on the soccer field.

Even at 15 I knew this was pretty ridiculous.

So, here I am many years later, and suddenly I feel like I’m hearing the same crap. Now, we all know that when an IEP meeting is convening, you’re going to get those people who wear ”more than one hat” as they try to make sure that the IEP Team has the required members under federal law. That’s one thing. But when that crosses the line to one person on the team assuming all roles that come up, it is no longer funny.

As in: you have a Social Worker at the IEP Meeting. She notes that she has been working with the student in a social skills group which meets for 30 minutes weekly. The Parent raises a concern about behavior. Suddenly, the social worker is explaining how she has a “concentration” in behavior, and has been working with the kids in the group on this very issue. Next, the Parent notes that they feel a speech pathologist should be providing intervention in pragmatic language. Before you know it, the chameleon Social Worker is talking about how “closely I work with the speech pathologist” and is touting the language pragmatics program she’s utilizing in the group. When the parent later mentions that he feels that sensory issues are impacting the child and affecting behavior, the VERY SAME Social Worker mentions the “regular consultation” which takes place with the Occupational Therapist.

So, if we understand this correctly, the 1/2 hour per week of social skills with the Social Worker has now been simultaneously presented as social skills training, AND a behavior intervention program AND speech therapy AND occupational therapy?!

I understand that there are several professionals whose backgrounds can meet multiple needs…but when our special education and related service providers start to sound like a soap opera doctors, then we’ve got problems.

Heck, the Soap Opera Doctor might be common enough to make my list of Unseemly IEP Team Members!

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