What Is Educational Therapy? My Key Takeaways From the 42nd National Conference
If you are not aware of what Educational Therapy is, I'll do my best to give you a brief breakdown. Educational therapy is "a form of therapy used to treat individuals with learning differences, disabilities, and challenges. This form of therapy offers a wide range of intensive interventions that are designed to resolve learners' learning problems."
Another way of describing Educational Therapy (versus traditional tutoring since it is often confused with that), is that educational therapy focuses on how to learn, rather than what to learn.
I like this definition because the focus of my work is on helping my clients develop a process for learning and organizing information, rather than obtaining discrete answers for assignments. While a great deal of my sessions do end up in the student completing missing work or even getting ahead, the underlying goal is always to strengthen the executive functioning skills through a formalized process that the client can replicate across different situations.
One thing I have noticed is that many families will come to me and share something along the lines of, "My child is not open to seeing a therapist, but they agreed to get some homework help from you." Of course, Educational Therapy is much more than homework help, and I am sure to explain that to the family who is requesting my services, but I also want to honor the child seeking help and not bog them down in the details before we have had a chance to develop rapport.
There is much to being an Educational Therapist and in the spirit of continued learning, I want to share my three key takeaways from the 42nd National Conference this past weekend in October 2020.
Educational Therapists Come In Many Forms
While volunteering for the conference this weekend, I met many educational therapists who play different roles in the education community. There are assessment specialists, researchers, educators, therapists, and psychologists. There is also diversity in the cultural backgrounds, ages, although I did not notice that I was one of a handful of males present throughout the conference. In addition, this was the 42nd National Conference (although the first presented online) which tells me there is a deep repository of knowledge and skills that has been developed and shared in the organization for almost half a century. To learn about the different Educational Therapists that are near you, you can use this link to look them up.
Educational Therapy Has A Strong Focus on Ethics
Because Educational Therapists exist on the spectrum between a talk therapist and special education teacher, many Educational Therapists find themselves in a grey area between therapy and education. On one hand, Educational Therapists want to "hold the space" for the client to express their emotions and challenges that have not been resolved in the classroom, but on the other hand, Educational Therapists are not bound by the same confidentiality laws that a therapist is.
The process of Educational Therapy is often a collaboration between the family, student, school team, therapeutic providers, and the Educational Therapist. For this reason, the Association of Educational Therapists holds a three hour panel discussion called the "Ethics Panel" to present case studies and hold a moderated discussion on how to navigate challenging situations. To read the full Code of Ethics for the Association of Educational Therapists, you can click here.
The Network Is Extremely Valuable
My last key takeaway is that the network of Educational Therapy is perhaps the most valuable part of the organization. Being able to see the range of practices and specialities gave me new ideas on how to serve my clients academic and emotional needs. I learned about different education technology tools such as BitPaper and Padlet that other educational therapists are using to help navigate online learning and make education more accessible for their clients.
Being able to connect with the different Study Groups that are available to members, both regionally and nationally, is going to be extremely valuable for developing my practice. If you are an Educational Therapist, you can find more about these groups in the Members' Center on the website, here.
Overall, connecting with the diverse range of professionals that are in the Association of Educational Therapists has given me new ideas about how to improve my practice. I am walking away with more questions than answers and wanting to do more informational interviews with members of the community to learn new methods for having more of a transformational impact on my clients.
If you are interested in discussing whether or not Educational Therapy would be appropriate for your child, please reach out to me via my website contact form.