Reap the Benefits of MTSS for Your Therapy and Related Services
An MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) Approach to Related Services
Today’s special education environment is especially challenging. Administrators are faced with capped or shrinking budgets at a time when demand for related services and supports are only increasing. The good news is that applying a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) approach to your support services enables you to provide for more students for less of your budget.
Most school administrators have had training on MTSS/RtII when it comes to academics. Tiered supports are provided to struggling students and more individualized interventions are prescribed based on a student’s ability to make meaningful progress.
Beyond Budget: The Benefits of Using an MTSS Approach to Your Therapy and Related Services
Implementing an MTSS approach can produce big benefits.
- Students aren’t unnecessarily identified as having a disability when they only needed support strategies.
- Therapy and related services costs and caseloads remain stable, as students don’t end up with an IEP or 504 plan, where they stay on direct service year after year
- Students get the support they need without having to go through a costly and exhaustive special education process. For example, 70% of all students referred to OT for handwriting issues are resolved through our short-term, small group program Pencil PowerTM for students with handwriting difficulties.
Implementation: Getting Started
- Examine Your Therapy Referrals: The first step is to determine what kinds of tiered supports you need to have available for teachers and students. Take a look at what is driving your therapy referrals. What are the functional difficulties causing the referral? Where are they coming from (grade? building?) Who is referring? (teachers? parents?) Once you know what’s causing the referrals, you can focus on tiered supports for the most common reasons.
- Build Your Tier 1 Tool Kit: Tier 1 supports are tools and strategies that are available to all students. Effective implementation of Tier 1 intervention requires that teachers be equipped to implement basic therapeutic strategies for things like sensory breaks, tips for increasing expressive language in the classroom, and the basics of behavior management. There are loads of these kinds of resources online. PTS has a free, web-based resource library available at www.pts-inc.net/teacher-resources/.
- Don’t Forget to Collect Data: Collecting data is key to an effective MTSS program. Have a system to track therapy and behavioral health referrals, so that you can identify where to focus your interventions. PTS’ BudgetWatchTM system does this automatically, but you can always use a manual tracking system. Also, teachers need to be part of the data collection process, as they monitor students’ response to interventions. Knowing whether a student is making progress at a given level of support is key to effective implementation.
- Tier 2: You will need to have some short term, more individualized, small group supports for those students who don’t make progress at Tier 1. These might include handwriting groups, Quick Artic for students with pronunciation difficulties, or social skills groups. These small groups don’t need to be run by a therapist. PTS’ Pencil PowerTM and Super-SelfTM programs can be implemented by an aide or paraprofessional.
By making these lower-cost tools and strategies available to struggling students easily and early-on, you can prevent a lot of teacher and student frustration, prevent a host of unnecessary referrals, and help get your therapy and related services budget under control once and for all.