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Pediatric Therapy Corner: Working in an Interdisciplinary World


 By: Krystal Vermeire, OTR/L
About a year ago I wrote an article for PediaStaff sharing my views on parent involvement in the occupational therapy world.  Today I would like to get you thinking about taking it a step further.  Actively involving parents in treatment sessions can help provide carry over at home, but what if the entire treatment team was working together and collaborating.  For many, this is an ideal, but what if we worked just a little harder to make it a reality.  A child’s treatment team is often comprised of a wide variety of professionals across disciplines.  Rarely, if ever, is the entire treatment team part of one group located in one location.  This means parents, therapists, and other professionals have to make the extra effort to collaborate.
In a world where we are all rushed and busy, it can seem daunting.  But what are the potential benefits to using an interdisciplinary approach?  Benefits can be seen across levels of collaboration.  When the entire treatment team is working together, the child is getting the most holistic treatment approach possible.  Each member of the treatment team becomes part of a supportive web of professionals, all working together to support the child.  When we work together, everyone wins.  In conducting a research review of relevant research to support my claims, I found little information out there about interdisciplinary work.  There is not a wide body of scientific knowledge to either prove or disprove my claims.  Petri (2010) conducted a concept analysis of interdisciplinary collaboration.  Their review yielded information from 89 source articles across disciplines.  A definition of interdisciplinary collaboration within the realm of healthcare was offered:  “…an interpersonal process characterized by healthcare professionals from multiple disciplines with shared objectives, decision-making, responsibility, and power working together to solve patient care problems; the process is best attained through interprofessional education that promotes an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect, effective and open communication, and awareness and acceptance of the roles, skills, and responsibilities of the participating disciplines.”
When professionals work together to support the needs of the client, they must have at least a basic understanding of each others’ roles.  It is important to know what each team member brings to the group as a whole.  It is essential that we each know how we overlap with one another, as well as where we differ entirely.  Once we have sorted out these details we are able to work together effectively to meet the needs of the client.  When I was in school, there was little opportunity to discuss how I should work with other professionals or what the role of other professionals was.  The complexity of our client’s unique and individual challenges leads us to a best practice model of collaborating with the entire treatment team.  The families we work with depend on us to work together and come up with solutions (Redman, 2006).
It was not until after school when I started seeing clients regularly and taking continuing education classes that I started to feel comfortable with what I was doing.  One program that I latched onto early in my career was the DIR® Model/Floortime™ Treatment (Greenspan, S.I. & Weider, S., 2006).  Within this treatment approach interdisciplinary work was commonplace.  It was expected that professionals would work together and the concepts of development that they presented were immediately applicable to all disciplines in one way or another.  One of Greenspan’s greatest achievements with the help of many colleagues was the development of the ICDL Graduate School’s revolutionary program.  This program offers a PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health and Developmental Disorders.  I have been working towards this degree for several years now and have loved the process.  This new program is truly a leap ahead in interdisciplinary learning.  Built into the curriculum are courses relating to sensory processing, motor development, academics and education, speech and language development, family systems, and the list goes on.  It is a unique program, designed to give an in depth look at all the professions working with infants and young children, truly promoting interdisciplinary work in a brand new field yet to really be defined.  More information on the program can be found on their website as listed in the references section.
As a new graduate, I quickly learned the value of working as part of an interdisciplinary team.  I would have liked to learn more about that process during schooling, but am truly glad to have had the support systems in my early years to support.  For new grads and seasoned clinicians, I urge you to reach out the other members of a client’s treatment team.  Collaboration can lead to some pretty amazing outcomes that everyone can be proud of.

  • Greenspan, S. I. and Weider, S. (2006). Engaging autism:  using the floortime approach to help children, relate, communicate, and think. Cambridge, MA:  Da Capo Press.
  • Petri, L. (2010). Concept analysis of interdisciplinary collaboration. Nursing Forum, 45(2), 73-82.
  • Redman, R. W. (2006). The challenge of interdisciplinary teams. Research and Theory for Nursing Practice, 20(2), 105-7.

Featured Contributor:  Krystal Vermeire, OTR/L
Krystal Vermeire, OTR/L has been practicing pediatric occupational therapy since 2007 in private clinical settings.  She is Sensory Integration certified, allowing her to administer and interpret the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests.  Krystal enjoys working with children of all abilities.  In her spare time, she leads her daughter’s Girl Scout troop and is working towards her Ph.D. in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health and Developmental Disorders through ICDL Graduate School.  Krystal has taken many continuing education courses, including DIR/Floortime, Beckman Oral Motor Protocol, Interactive Metronome, Myofascial Release, Kinesio Taping techniques, Yoga for Kids, Therapeutic Listening, Sensory Integration and Praxis, and Hippotherapy.  Currently, Krystal is employed as the Supervisor of Occupational Therapy Services at All For Kids Pediatric Clinic in Anchorage, AK where she provides clinic, home-based, aquatic, and hippotherapy services in addition to supervising and mentoring staff.

PediaStaff hires pediatric and school-based professionals nationwide for contract assignments of 2 to 12 months. We also help clinics, hospitals, schools, and home health agencies to find and hire these professionals directly. We work with Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, School Psychologists, and others in pediatric therapy and education.


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