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How to Maximize Time Spent on Goal Practice During Therapy Sessions

How to Maximize Time Spent on Goal Practice During Therapy SessionsHow to Maximize Time Spent on Goal Practice During Therapy Sessions

Do you ever find yourself finishing up a therapy session, going to document progress and realizing that the last 30 minutes did not go as planned?  Maybe the therapeutic activities metamorphosed into other play skill domains that were not directly goal related but beneficial to overall child development.  Have you ever spent the majority of your session on behavioral support?  Perhaps it took too much time to set up an activity or transition from one activity to the next.  Regardless of the scenario, there are times when therapy sessions are not comprised of all meaningful, goal-directed activities.

The British Journal of Occupational Therapy published research following a video analysis of 10 children with unilateral cerebral palsy during an occupational therapy session.  The results indicated that less than half of the session time was spent in goal practice, even though the sessions were being conducted under a goal-directed framework.  Non-goal-related activities comprised nearly half of in-session time.  Even though this is a small sample size, that is scary – LESS THAN HALF of the session time was spent on goal practice!

Here are some suggestions on how to maximize time spent on goal practice during therapy sessions and improve productivity:

  1. SET GOALS – review the overall goal for the child and set meaningful, functional goals for each therapy session.
  2. PLAN AHEAD – determine what meaningful goal related activities you will practice during the session.  You may need an extra idea or two prepped and ready to go in case a child moves quickly through the tasks or is highly disinterested in a certain activity.
  3. SET BEHAVIORAL EXPECTATIONS – Set ground rules with the child if necessary to reduce behavioral issues during the session.
  4.  STAY ON TASK – ensure that you complete the goal related activities in a timely manner, staying focused on the goal of the session.
  5. PROVIDE REMINDERS – when you first start working on maximizing your time spent on goal practice try checking whether you are staying on track every five minutes.  Ask yourself, is this activity we are currently doing working towards the meaningful goal?  If not, redirect the child back to a more suitable activity.
  6. ESTABLISH A ROUTINE – when the child knows what to expect it is easier to keep everyone on task.
  7. DO NOT HAVE SIDE CONVERSATIONS – When working with children, our focus should be on that child or group of children.  Try not to engage in side conversations with other adults unless it is regarding carryover activities.

Read 5 Ways to Improve Productivity as a School-Based Therapist.

If you need activity ideas specifically for children with unilateral cerebral palsy to help plan ahead, check out Therapeutic PLAY Activities for Children.

Need ideas for meaningful, functional school-based therapy goals?  Check out IEP Goals Related to the Common Core for OT/PT.

IEP Goals Related to the Common Core for OT/PT

Reference:  Branjerdporn, N., Ziviani, J., & Sakzewski, L. (2017). Goal-directed occupational therapy for children with unilateral cerebral palsy: Categorising and quantifying session content. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 0308022617743458.

How to Maximize Time Spent on Goal Practice During Therapy Sessions