We need teamwork, but really

Do you remember group work at school? The ones in which we divided the sections of the subject by drawing lots and then we put everything together. It used to be a disaster because everyone wrote in a different way, the ideas were disjointed, the weird smart guy got away and didn’t do his part. Well, it happened because they only told us about the group, but not about the team.

Teamwork could be defined as the work done by a group of people working for a common goal. Since the last century, teamwork has been increasingly promoted and in our current society, cooperative work is an important tool and almost an essential requirement in any type of sector. An interdisciplinary and shared vision helps to find better solutions to problems and promotes creativity and efficiency. This “model” of action can be applied both at work and in the personal or social sphere.

So far, any theory sounds very nice. But what happens when it needs to be put into practice, what happens when you need to form a team that involves the collaboration of different people and professionals from different fields? I will give an example drawn from my experience as a speech therapist in the private sphere: in therapy for a patient, teamwork is essential, in which the family and the school are involved to unite the objectives; Otherwise, the effort that everyone involved in the child’s learning process can make is meaningless. It would be like trying to cross a river in a rowless boat.

The families of our patients, mostly children with neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as the teachers of their educational centers, ask us for help so that their children/students evolve as well as possible and, of course, we do it because it is our job ; but we are also frustrated when our directives “fall on deaf ears”. For the most part, the work objectives that we plan for the intervention are focused on application at home and in the classroom, since the learning capacity of these children is diminished and, therefore, to generalize something that ‘they learn in therapy and apply it in other settings without the support of parents or teachers is very difficult. We generally perceive little cooperation from the patient’s entourage, which is sometimes due to a lack of knowledge or an overflow of the personal situation of those involved. The therapists are there to accompany the patient and their family throughout the intervention process, while we try to coordinate the work with the school to form the team that we need so badly. This accompaniment means listening to the needs of others and looking together for tools to improve the situation that leads families to this overflow.

It is very satisfying for therapists to meet a teacher with a lot of empathy and a desire to help, or parents who want to learn. Therapy, speech therapy and any other specialty, only works if there is a support network that promotes the guidelines given to be applied outside of sessions to our patients. We must therefore work as a team, listen to each other, make proposals and apply the techniques that are recommended to better help our children. This means more dedication, therefore more work, but its consequence will inevitably be a more effective result in the long run.

There may be experienced and trained therapists serving the patient, but there needs to be a solid family structure with involved parents and a school with a capacity for inclusion and empathy; otherwise, progress will be slower.

I take this window to invite both families and teachers of children with neurodevelopmental difficulties to reflect on whether we are looking for a support network with a common goal, whether we are sufficiently involved, whether we provide them with the adaptations they need , if they devote quality leisure time to us, if we have learned to collaborate through proactivity, if each of us has become aware of the importance of our role in the favorable evolution of the patient; and to my professional colleagues, if we really support families. It is a question of assuming an active role to constitute a true team, by understanding the interdependencies of each one, but by always having the person (patient/student/child) at the center of one’s concerns.

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