COVID-19 has been a time of uncertainty and negativity within all of our worlds. It has caused many unforeseen circumstances and has forced education and medical professionals to go into worlds of unknown. Medical professionals were called upon to treat and heal patients from a virus that no-one knew about and educational professionals were asked to continue to educate and provide services to students through means that they never have before. But, with all of the negativity the surrounds COVID-19, it is important to shed light on some of the positive outcomes that have occurred secondary to the pandemic. It is important to keep a positive mindset to allow our brain and our outcomes to become more positive.
I am currently a Clinical Fellow Speech Language Specialist with The Stepping Stones Group working in the Newark Public Schools. This pandemic has caused many difficulties for me and definitely for the students that I serve. But, I believe it is important to see the positives versus the negatives and to continue to try our best in providing the best care for our students during this time, especially because now is when they need it the most. Some positive outcomes that I have observed throughout the pandemic are improvement in creativity and flexibility in clinicians, a toolbox of teletherapy skills, an increase in communication with other team members and families, and it required us to try something new and be okay with making mistakes.
Throughout the Pandemic, Clinicians and educators were required to continue to provide services to the students in ways that they may never have attempted before. Also, procedures and regulations were constantly changing throughout the pandemic. This required great flexibility and creativity from the clinicians. Just when things were getting comfortable or the clinicians were getting used to doing something a particular way, a policy would change and the clinician would be forced to think on the spot and problem-solve to continue to provide service without interruption. Also, clinicians had to think outside the box and adapt their materials (and maybe even make some of their own) to continue to target the individual’s goals. Great creativity was needed to make this happen and new ideas flourished during this time. The ideas and materials that were generated during the pandemic will be continued to be utilized for years to come. Also, it is known that every session didn’t go as planned, with brothers and sisters running into the room or the student leaving the computer to show you the new toy they just got. This required the clinician to continually adapt and change their session plans to continue to meet the needs of their student in a more naturalistic setting. This is a skill that is very important to have, even after the pandemic.
Due to school closures, service delivery models were changed instantly. The clinicians had to learn a new skill set and implement Teletherapy seamlessly. Learning this new skill set is amazing and so important for the future of our fields. This allows us to connect with students that might not have had such easy access to related services providers in the past. Teletherapy is one of the newest modes of service delivery and will continue to grow and evolve. Being forced to learn and implement these skills might have seemed daunting in the beginning, but will be utilized for years to come and you will be glad that you know have these skills in your toolbox. Teletherapy opens up so many options for our students, which I think will be explored more once the pandemic has subsided.
As we all know, Communication with other team members and parents or family members is important for the success of our students. As service delivery changed and we were now virtually entering the student’s home, it required us to increase our communication with families. This allowed the family members to observe and see the skills and strategies the clinician was using with their students. The family members were closing for a parent coaching model or to encourage strategies to use to increase carryover outside of the speech session. These are all things that are very important for the continued progress of a student and virtually entering the student’s home allowed us more access to their family members that are with them throughout the day. Also, since we were no longer in person and couldn’t just stop by and talking with a team member, communication attempts had to be planned and might have been sent out weekly. This allowed all communication attempts with team members to be documented and deliberate and allowed only important details to be shared with the team members. This lead to efficient communication, which I know the team members I worked with apprenticed greatly.
I think one of the most important positive outcomes to come from this pandemic is that it made all of us step out of our comfort zone and attempt something new. It allowed us to accept mistakes and learn from them and continue to seek guidance when necessary. We all know that clinicians never like to make mistakes and want everything to always go as planned, but that is just not realistic. The pandemic forced us to try something new and fail and make mistakes. It showed us that even though we make mistakes, it doesn’t make us a bad clinician, it makes us human. The most important thing is that you learn from that mistake and improve it for the next time. There were many professional development webinars offered for free from some great clinicians that allowed clinicians to learn from one another. This showed that even though we were forced to step out of our comfort zone, we were not alone during this. It showed that our professionals are willing to take on any challenge and band together to ensure that we can overcome anything.
I know that each person has had different situations and experiences throughout the pandemic. I know that it has caused many hardships, challenges, and difficulties for everyone. I just hope that you see that some positive outcomes have come from this situation. You might not resonate with all of the ones I listed here or you may have some different ones of you own, but I challenge all of you to look more at the positives in every situation, instead of the negatives to allow you to see that you all are doing your very best and providing the best services possible to each of your students. “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.”- William James
If you want to discuss this topic more and share some of the positive highlights you have had during this very difficult time, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s continue the positive discussion to help us get through this challenging period.
Author: Paul D’Imperio, M.S., CF-SLP