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New guidance on tele-therapy for speech teachers and OT/PTs

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The following email is being sent to speech teachers and OT/PTs. It includes important new guidance on tele-therapy.


I can’t thank speech teachers and occupational and physical therapists enough. The mandated services you provide were among the toughest to re-envision and reconfigure in this new period of remote learning and support.

The UFT has been advocating on your behalf with the city Department of Education, the State Education Department and the state Department of Health to establish new protocols that recognize your professional expertise and need for discretion so you can tailor your services to each student’s particular needs and circumstances.We hope the guidance below that we hammered out with the DOE will address many of your concerns and questions.

Determining appropriate services

The requirement that tele-therapy is the exclusive method of service delivery is no longer in place.

After consulting with the family, you are responsible for using your clinical judgment as ethical professionals to determine how best to deliver remote services to your students. The starting point should always be the services recommended on the child’s IEP; however, the arrangement for services must be tailored to the family and student's needs. While tele-therapy is the clinical best practice, your determination may include a variety of different modalities, communication methods and resources. You may determine, for example, that a 30-minute tele-therapy session is more appropriate than a 45-minute session; or that the student's needs would best be met with a combination of tele-therapy and one weekly phone/tele-therapy consultation with the family or caregiver.

You have flexibility in determining the appropriate length, frequency and manner in which to provide services as long as your decisions are based on the needs of your students, allow the student to make adequate progress toward the student’s IEP goals and are determined in consultation with the student, the student’s teacher and the student’s family.

The combined weekly time for direct service, consultation with the family and indirect service should not be substantially less than the total weekly service time recommended on the student’s IEP. Please consult your supervisor if you believe the student would not benefit from any method of direct service or would only benefit from substantially less combined service than what is recommended on the IEP.

Workday for related services providers

You are not required to work beyond your contractual workday. But schools should not try to replicate a regular school schedule in a virtual environment. You should use your professional discretion to determine how to flexibly work to meet the needs of your students and their families. If an early morning or late afternoon therapy session is best for all parties involved, then ​work with the family to schedule it during a mutually agreeable time for services.

We understand that there are many questions regarding the submission of schedules. The UFT and the DOE are engaged in ongoing discussions on this issue, and we expect to provide clarification shortly.

Recording, Sharing, Posting and Disseminating Related Services Sessions

After we told the DOE about your experiences and concerns with parents recording mandated sessions, the DOE agreed to send the following email to families:

For the privacy of all students and staff, just as in school, parents should not record, share, post or otherwise disseminate audio or video of remote learning or related services sessions. Parents are encouraged to ask their child's teacher or principal if they have any questions about their child's remote learning activities or lessons.

Completing the revised Special Education Remote Learning Plan

Unlike the original plan that often duplicated information in the IEP, the revised plan is used to document the services that are actually being delivered remotely to the student.

The original mandate was determined with the assumption that students were in a school building for the entire day. However, now that the students are learning remotely, there are many other factors that have an impact on the family.

After consulting with the family and using your professional judgment, you should determine the combination of services needed for the student to access the curriculum and achieve the student’s goals in this remote support environment. Those services should be documented on the revised Special Education Remote Learning Plan.

Thank you again for your dedication to your students during this trying time.

Related Topics: Chapter News, Coronavirus