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10 Back to School Tips for School Based Therapists

10 Back to School Tips for School Based Therapists from www.YourTherapySource.com

It is that time of year again – back to school.  Here are 10 tips to help you get started on the right “foot” (for the PTs) or “write path” (for the OTs).  Get it hahahaha!  Ok, I know lame joke but I couldn’t resist.  Here we go:

#1:  Get organized.  Here are a few specific tips to help –

1. Try using one color folder per school. For example, for every student at school XYZ use a red folder. For each student at school ABC use a blue folder.

2. In each student’s file, keep an general information page including goals. There are several free versions of this from TeachersPayTeachers such as http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/IEP-at-a-Glance-1392781

3. Keep a binder for all your daily notes. Using file folder dividers with tabs, write the student’s name on the file folder tab. Try to keep it in alphabetical order to quickly find a student’s name.  Check out the Therapy Planner for 2015-2016 to organize your binder at https://www.yourtherapysource.com/therapyplanner.html

4. Keep a file folder with your most popular hand outs in your bag. When teachers or parents need extra information on a popular topic you will have it all at your fingertips. Check out all of our hand outs for ideas at https://www.yourtherapysource.com/handouts.html

5. Keep a pack of sticky notes ready to jot down a note or reminders. At the end of the day transfer any information on the sticky note to the proper location.

6. Schedule a meeting with yourself at the end of the week to stay organized. Create a time slot in your schedule at the end of the day (or at home) to sit down go through all the important papers from the week and re-organize to get ready for the upcoming week. It will be a time saver in the long run.

#2: Set up your therapy space.  This can mean so many different things to different therapists.  Perhaps you are lucky enough to actually have a therapy room.  Design your space with universal design principles to set a good example and help all children that come to the therapy room.  Want to make it look nice?  Check out some of our motivational posters for pediatric OTs and PTs at https://www.yourtherapysource.com/motivational.html   If your therapy space is a hallway or small closet start setting up your car.  Clean it and organize it so that you have space for all your equipment as your travel.

#3:  Learn about the students’ curriculum.  This may sound like a huge undertaking but at least start out by understanding what is expected of the students on your caseload.  Things have changed so much over the last several years about what is expected of children to learn.  As school based therapists our job is to help students achieve their educational goals.   That job is impossible if we do not fully understand what they need to learn.  If your school is using the common core standards you can get an idea of what is expected for each grade in IEP Goals Related to the Common Core for OT/PT Grades K-2  at  https://www.yourtherapysource.com/commoncorek2.html or IEP Goals Related to the Common Core for OT/PT Grades 3-5 at https://www.yourtherapysource.com/commoncore35.html

#4:  Check current goals.  Learn about each of your students.   It can be hard to get a clear picture of a student’s skill based on what you read on paper.  If you had the student previously, have any skills changed over the summer?  If a decline is observed, be sure to collect some data to help justify services over the next summer if needed.  If the student has improved, check if goals needs to be adjusted.

#5: Observe your students in the educational environment.  Observe the student in the classroom, on the bus, in the cafeteria, etc.  Can the student physically access all the materials? Are there certain modifications that need to be made to the environment to make it easier for the student?  Sometimes as therapists, we focus on what we can do to help with specific therapeutic interventions to help a student improve his/her skills.  We need to remember the quick fixes that can be done to the environment around the student to help achieve goals.

#6:  Collaborate with teachers, parents, students and other school staff.  Introduce yourself to all of the team members,  Explain how you can offer help in certain areas for students and encourage the team members to contact you if they have any questions.  Don’t forget to collaborate with the most important team member – the student!

#7: Communicate.   Communication is different than collaboration.  Inform students, parents and school staff what you are working on with the student and offer suggestions of how they can help.  Want more suggestions?  Check out this article Let’s Talk – How to Communicate Effectively with the Special Education Team at https://www.yourtherapysource.com/communicate.html.

#8:  Establish goals for yourself.  Keep it nice and simple and try filling out this worksheet on how you can improve this school year – https://www.yourtherapysource.com/blog1/2014/06/03/self-improvement/

#9:  Don’t judge.  If you have new students on your caseload, do not judge them solely on what you read on paper especially their motor skills.  Don’t assume that a child can not achieve a certain skill.  Take the time to get to know each student (see tip #5).

#10:  Be prepared.  Children tend to exhibit inappropriate behavior when they become complacent during unstructured times. It is critical to plan out in advance exactly what goals you will be addressing during the session and design an activity keeping those goals as the focus. Always have in mind a few extra activities. Some activities that you may think will take 20 minutes may take 5 minutes leaving you with a chunk of unstructured time.  Make sure that students can complete the tasks you will be using while being challenged.  You can find thousands of activity ideas at https://www.yourtherapysource.com.