I love working as a school occupational therapist (OT)! I work as a district employee at a public school in Pennsylvania. I am an OT serving five buildings in our district: two high schools and three elementary schools. I love the variety because it really keeps me on my toes! No day is ever the same, but join me in a ‘day in the life’ of a school OT:
Check out this blog on OT room tours to see one of my basic classroom spaces [that also doubles as a sensory room!].
I have to be at school at 7.30am but I’m not much of a morning person… so it can be very challenging to get up with plenty of time to get a cup of coffee at home! I am constantly working on improving my morning routine so that I am not running out the door. We often have IEP meetings that start right at 7:30, so I like to get to work earlier than usual!
*Check out Whitney’s blog on how to be confident at an IEP meeting!
After all IEP meetings before school [if there is time before my first session]I usually complete the following procedure:
- Check my email
- Check out my schedule for the day
- Check attendance and record absences
- Printing/preparing materials for my session
I usually have about 7-10 sessions [combination of group and individual] During the day [anywhere from 10-17 students in total], so my days are pretty full! Check out the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Fact Sheet on the Role of School-Based OTs to see what OTs can do in the school system!
Morning routine/ADL support
I love to “squeeze” into classes wherever possible! OT is probably most effective in the natural environment! Getting into a daily routine not only helps me see and address potential barriers to independence, but also helps my students stay in their least restrictive environment. My students in the multi-disability classroom have OT goals related to ADLs such as hand washing, brushing teeth, and other morning routines.
*If you are working on this skill, check out the book adapted to hand washing!
Fine motor skills
Fine motor skills are probably one of the most targeted skills for school-based OT. These are the skills I focus on in most of my sessions in one way or another! My younger students often develop fine motor skills to support classroom activities such as (pre)writing, scissor skills and using school supplies.
Check out some of my other blogs for ideas on how to focus on these skills:
Students of all ages who are on my case work on coordinating both hands together (AKA bilateral coordination) to complete skills such as opening containers, fastening clothing (zippers, buttons), cutting, preschool activities, cooking skills, and much more! We work on these activities explicitly, as well as other fun activities that focus on the essential skills needed to succeed in these school tasks!
I also love working on fine motor skills (as well as sequences, executive functions, etc.!) using visual crafts! You can hit a lot of different skills with them, and the visuals allow students to be even more independent! I like to do a visual craft with my students one week and a visual recipe to match the next week!
It can be really easy to skip planning and lunch as a school OT due to a chaotic schedule. Even if I have to do paperwork during lunch, I always make sure I have time to eat something nutritious and healthy!
* Use Simply Special Ed visual recipes to cook with your students!
Speaking of visual recipes… that’s one of my favorite life skills to work on with students! There are so many skills to focus on and my individual classrooms often already have time set aside for these types of activities! I’m all about collaboration! I often go to these sessions during the afternoon!
*I am making this hot cocoa recipe with my students this week! Check out the image below and download it for FREE!
*See how I work on fine motor skills with visual recipes on my blog!
Especially at the intermediate level, we are happy for students to complete their school work! Be creative and see where your student’s skills could be used to benefit the school! Can they help clean the cafeteria or change the letter board in front of the school? Could they have a cafe/drinks cart for teachers or merchandise for sale to help fund community teaching?
Check out these blogs for inspiration:
You may have seen me doing yoga as part of my sensory journey, but I really love a barre, yoga or cycling class at the gym after work a few times a week. OT is about holistic health and life balance, so it’s only fitting that we remember to take care of ourselves so we can more fully support others! Remember, friends, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
*See more about sensory walls in my schools here in my blog series!