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

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4 Responses to Social-Pathologist-Behavior-Worker-Therapist-Type Person

  1. Rochelle
    October 11th, 2011 | 1:35 am

    At least they’re doing something; as ineffective and ludicrous (sp?) as it is….
    Somehow I think I’d prefer one person who miraculously wears many hats to many people who wear none yet feel enabled to constantly verbally confront a woman they’ve received medical documentation of high blood pressure and chest pains … not to mention any person with any level of competence regarding autism learns before anything else that verbal confrontation incites drastic manifestations of the brain disorder.

  2. Lynn Marentette
    October 11th, 2011 | 8:42 am

    “Social-Pathologist-Behavior-Worker-Therapist-Type Person”

    I love the title of your blog post!

    I’m a school psychologist who works with students who have special needs, including autism spectrum disorders. With the funding cuts to education and special education, the reality is that we all must wear many hats at work. I can relate to what it must feel like to be the “Social Pathologist Behavior Worker Therapist Type Person” ; )

    There are significantly more young people with autism spectrum disorders, yet there are fewer $$$ to support related services, as well as special education teachers and assistants. Within this climate, teachers must also function as the “Social-Pathologist-Behavior-Worker-Therapist-Type Person”. It seems like it is the “new normal” and won’t change until our main-street economies improve.

  3. Carolyn Bilelis
    October 13th, 2011 | 2:02 pm

    I disagree with Ms. Marentette’s assertion that this “won’t change until our main-street economies improve.” This kind of attitude is what allows districts to divert funds away from the sorely needed specialists. Districts must be reminded that THE NEEDS OF SPECIAL ED STUDENTS IS A VERY HIGH PRIORITY AND MUST BE BUDGETED FOR APPROPRIATELY, SOMETIMES AT THE EXPENSE OF HIGHLY DESIRED BUT LESS NEEDED THINGS.

  4. Laurie Johnston Dunne
    March 16th, 2012 | 11:05 am

    I’m not a Social-Pathologist-Behavior-Worker-Therapist-Type . I am a mother with 2 sons with CAPD,and have had to wear the hat of this person. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to decipher the current IEP specialist wearing these hats? When my children were younger it was easy for me to meet with each specific field specialists because the funding was there to have a speech therapist available 2-3 days a week at one school, now there is no available speech therapist. The children are now falling through the cracks because administration budget cuts in which those special ed monies were to be allocated to fund these teachers/ specialists.
    It’s become a beurocratic nightmare and the children are suffering not so much the teachers they are just surviving.