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10 Ways to Increase Student Participation in School Based Therapy


Here are 10 ways to increase student participation in school based occupational, physical or speech therapy:

Student Choice:  Allow the students to choose activities.  Have several activities available that will accomplish the same end results and let them choose.  Need to plan in advance, ask the student the session before what activity they would like to work on next.  Maybe provide the student with homework to plan out some activities that will help them to achieve their goals.

Work with their Peers:  Most students enjoy working with a partner to problem solve and to throw in some social interaction.  If a student does not receive group therapy sessions would this be a possibility to increase his/her interest during a therapy session?

Work with Technology:  Most technology use is a real barrier breaker especially for students with special needs.  It is unique in that you can be 10 years younger than someone else but you may know more about technology.  Sometimes a skill that is being worked on for possibly years during therapy could be achieved through the use of technology.  Not sure where to start, ask another middle school student to help you.

Connect the Real World to the Work that We Do:  If your student is getting tired of practicing something over and over, perhaps take a field trip to show them why they need the skill.  Can’t take a field trip, find a video on the internet explaining why the skill is beneficial.  Maybe ask the student to think up a project to complete that will affect the real world.  Working on handwriting skills, how about a letter campaign to fix something that the student feels needs to change?

Love What You Do:  Be enthusiastic as the teacher.  If you are bored and monotone, it rubs off on students.  Keep therapy fun and exciting.

Get Me Out of My Seat:  Let students move during therapy sessions as much as possible.  They are required to sit for such long lengths of time.  Throw in movement when working on skills.

Use Visuals:  If a student is not understanding what you are asking he/she to do, use a visual.  Again, show a video, use picture symbols or physically demonstrate yourself.  Brainworks offers a HUGE collection of visuals.

Understand the Kids:  This can be difficult at time.  But get to know your students.  What are their likes and dislikes?  Use those to your advantage to keep them engaged.

Mix It Up:  Change up how you are practicing an activity.  This is a great motor learning concept.  Humans needs to learn motor skills in different environments and settings to truly learn a skill.  Use different materials, practice in different rooms, practice outdoors and practice with different people.

Be Human:  Engage with the kids.  They need role models who can show that it is okay to try and maybe you will make a mistake along the way.  So if an activity that you wanted to try didn’t work out as you expected (we have all been there) tell the student that you made a mistake.  Explain to them that if we try it a different way in the future it may be more beneficial.  Not sure how to fix it, ask the student first they may just have the best idea of all!

Bonus suggestion – Use incentives and motivational tools to keep student engaged.  Some children are highly motivated to participate when rewards are offered.

Reference:  Heather Wolpert-Gawron. Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement. Retrieved from the web on 10/14/13 at http://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-engagement-stories-heather-wolpert-gawron

Punch Cards and Reward Cards for Therapy

Punch Cards and Reward Cards – download of 40 punch cards and 10 reward cards for motivation to complete pediatric therapy goals. Set goals for the student to achieve. When the student completes an activity, punch a hole in the card. After 10 punches, the student chooses a reward card (with free prize suggestions). Also included is a list of 30 free or low cost rewards.

The 40 punch cards include:

10 daily routines ie getting ready for school, taking a bath, etc
10 exercise cards
10 fine motor/handwriting
10 Give Yourself a Hand
There are 10 cards on each page. Once printed and cut out each card is 3″ by 2.5″.