Factors Impacting Interprofessional Collaboration in Special Education Caroline Lowenstein, SPT; Andrea Schnelker, SPT; Heather Savery, SPT; Jessica Paris, SPT Faculty Mentor: Catherine Thompson, PT, Ph.D.
Purpose/Hypothesis: Competencies for interprofessional collaboration (IPC) include: (1) maintaining a climate of respect and shared values, (2) having knowledge of one’s role and the role of others, (3) engaging in responsive and responsible communication, and (4) applying values and principles for relationship-building and effective teamwork. Limited research has explored factors that limit or enhance IPC in school settings. The purpose of this study is to identify factors that may enhance or impede IPC.
Number of Subjects: Survey respondents included 310 professionals (22-60+ years of age; F = 290, M = 20; 63% therapists, 16% teachers, 21% others). 65% of respondents had over 5 years of experience.
Materials/Methods: An 18-item survey (including demographic information, Likert scale, and open-ended questions) was developed on Survey Monkey based upon IPC research. A link to this survey was distributed via professional Facebook pages, email, and professional listservs, targeting professionals working in early intervention, elementary, middle, and high school settings.
Results: In terms of IPC competencies: (1) all respondents valued IPC and respected their professional peers; (2) >90% of respondents had at least a fair understanding of others’ roles; (3) >98% faced challenges with communication; (4) >90% had problems with teamwork. Factors negatively impacting communication included: limited time to interact, lack of receptiveness to new ideas, poor listening skills, and limited resources (guidelines, training, counseling for IPC). Most frequent causes of conflict included: lack of follow-through, misunderstandings, personality differences, non-compliance with rules and regulations, and competition. Top strategies to enhance IPC included: keeping communication open (93%), collaborating = 90%, being patient and taking time (89%), focusing on the problem, not the individual (74%), compromising (73%), accommodating (68%), confronting conflict directly and developing solutions collaboratively (54%), and establishing IPC guidelines (50%).
Conclusions: Special education professionals value and respect each other another, but are challenged by conflict and limited communication. Strategies to enhance IPC include open communication, collaboration, patience, focus on problem solving, compromising, accommodating others, and addressing conflict directly. Schools offering additional opportunities for communication can enhance IPC. Improved IPC can more positively impact special education services for those in need.
Clinical Relevance: IPC is essential to the effective special education services. In addition to valuing and respecting others’ roles, professionals must develop communication skills that enable IPC and reduce conflict. Strategies for improving IPC in educational settings include open-mindedness, collaboration, patience, and focusing on problem-solving that will achieve the optimal outcome for children and their families.