10 Reasons Every OT Should Attend #AOTA17

<#AOTA17 is a must!  See 10 reasons why you HAVE to go!>


I’ve been an OT for seventeen years, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never attended the AOTA conference until #AOTA15 in Nashville, Tennessee.

My excuses were:

  • It cost too much
  • I’d have to miss work
  • None of my friends were going/ I wouldn’t know anyone

Two years ago, my old roommate from college asked me if I was interested in attending #AOTA15 in Nashville.

YES!   I’d been dying to go to Nashville, it was a chance to hang out with my former partner-in-crime for a few days, so I was totally in.

That trip totally changed my perspective on the AOTA conference. 

Truthfully, I had no idea what I’d been missing!

Now, I can honestly say that I’ll make every effort to attend the AOTA conference each year. I decided to write this article to convince the Occupational Therapy practitioners who are thinking “hmm maybe…” to   “YES!” for  #AOTA17.

Here are 10 reasons YOU should go To #AOTA17 in PhilLY!

*This post contains affiliate links


1. Explore a new city.

If you LOVE to travel, this is the perfect chance to discover a new city and see all the sights. My favorite book, 1,000 places to see before you die, lists the famous Philly cheesesteak place Pat’s, and his rival, Geno’s as a must taste.   If you’re a foodie, there’s also Restaurant Row, which houses the famous Striped Bass, Susanna Foo, and Le Bar Lyonnais.

History buffs can check out Franklin Court, Betsy Ross House, the Liberty Bell and Independence National Historical Park. Museum lovers can enjoy the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which houses the Rocky Balboa statue – perfect for taking a selfie!  Also, check out the CityPass website for great discounts and deals on all the Philadelphia sights.

connect with People At #AOTA17

2. Reunite with old friends. #AOTA17 is a great opportunity to meet up with friends from university, colleagues from previous jobs, and professors from the old days. Social media makes it easy to stay in touch afterward, too. Plan to share a hotel room with your roommate from college. It will be just like old times!

3. Connect with other Occupational Therapists. You are not an island! Many OT practitioners work alone or with only a PT. It’s awesome to have another OT to trade ideas, share activities, and collaborate on meeting goals together. Going to #AOTA17 will put you into “OT shock”.  OTs are everywhere- in the elevator, next to you at the restaurant, and most of all, sitting next to you at the conference. It’s AWESOME.  

AND it’s so nice to “talk shop” with other OTs.


4. Learn new skills and keep up with current events. AOTA has an app where you can plan out your conference schedule. You can enjoy multiple workshops each day on the topics you’re interested in. You can customize each day to your liking, and there are hundreds of courses to choose from.

AOTA  hosts courses to keep you up to date with changes in law, best practice guidelines, and the latest research. For OT students, there are sessions about exam preparation and ethics in the workplace.  Check out the app here.

5. Get your Continuing Education Units. In a course of three days, you have the opportunity to get up to 24 Continuing Education Units (CEUs)! For the busy OT practitioner, this can be a life-saver.

6. Discover new products, companies, and job opportunities at the AOTA Expo. This is one of my favorite parts of the AOTA conference. Hundreds of companies gather to persuade thousands of OTs to try products, buy books, sign up for courses, etc. Plus, there are tons of free giveaways, prizes, and samples. Who doesn’t love free samples?


7. Meet famous OTs!  Everyone has different Occupational Therapists that they admire or look up to. As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, I was thrilled to meet Theresa Garland, author of one of my favorite OT books, Self-Regulation Interventions and Strategies.


Meeting “Handwriting With Katherine” and “MamaOT” was the highlight of #AOTA16 for me!

As a pediatric OT blogger (MissJaimeOT), I was totally psyched to meet two fellow OT bloggers, Christie Kiley (MamaOT) and Katherine Collmer (Handwriting With Katherine).  Christie lives in California and Katherine is from Arizona.

As a result of the AOTA conference,  I  had the opportunity to meet them in person!  Now, I’m in touch with both of them, and Christie and I actually collaborated with other OTs and PTs to write “The Handwriting Book”, which was recently released by the Functional Skills for Kids team!  For me, these are “famous OTs”, but that would depend on what kind of OT YOU are and who YOU’RE excited to meet. Chances are they’ll be at #AOTA17!

Handwriting and Middle School

A comprehensive guide to all things Handwriting! Written by a team of pediatric OTs and PTs.


8. Rediscover why you chose to be an OT practitioner. Attending the conference will make you excited about OT again. If you’re feeling bored or unmotivated, #AOTA17 will have you on fire with ideas and things you’re looking forward to doing. The enthusiasm is contagious! Connecting with other practitioners is invigorating, and listening to their ideas and success stories can revitalize your role as a practitioner.

Love OT again!


9. The keynote speakers will inspire you!  #AOTA16 keynote speakers were Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes, two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. The couple had the audience laughing, crying, and speechless during their 30-minute presentation outlining their traumatic ordeal, recovery, and experience with their Occupational Therapists, who “helped give our independence back, our lives back, our love back”.

Listening to that speech was one of the highlights of my career as an OT, and it made me very proud of the profession I chose. I highly recommend seeing it for yourself on YouTube.

10. Use turn-key teaching to bring your new skills and ideas back to your workplace. Bring your new knowledge back to your organization.  Turn-key teach other OTs and professionals.   It’s a wonderful way to showcase your new proficiency and expertise. Administrators will admire your eagerness to promote your profession.  Plus, it may make them more willing to pay for you to go the following year!

#AOTA17 is guaranteed to be amazing!

Take the time to plan now:

  • Find out if your workplace provides reimbursement for conferences and put in early. Check the AOTA.org website frequently to see when the discount hotels are listed.  Then, call your friends to convince them to share a room with you!
  • Explore the discount travel websites for a cheap price on flights.
  • Don’t forget to check Amtrack or Megabus, which has discount seats starting at $1.00!

For more information, go to AOTA.org

Look for a copy of this article in the upcoming issue of OT practice!


fine motor and cutting Middle School and Handwriting Dollar Store Fidgets
 keyboarding progression  Best Baby Shower Gift Ever  Homework Fidgety Kids

A Valentine’s Day Motor Monday: Super Simple Hand Strengthening

I have a confession: I love the Dollar Store.  I just do.

The problem is that it’s impossible to leave without a few extra things.

BUT – that’s how I ended up with my latest and greatest Valentine’s Motor Centers.  

I swear I just went in there for a couple of birthday cards, but when I saw the “seasonal section” filled with Valentine’s Goodies, I couldn’t resist.

These adorable pink and red Valentine’s Day “table scatter” hearts were the perfect size for little hands to work on grasping.  I just started adding to my basket.  


Why resist?  It’s for the children!

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chocolate-scented play dough

How to Make Heavenly No-Cook Chocolate-Scented Play Dough


Valentine’s day is almost here- that means… CHOCOLATE FEVER!!!  I am such a chocolate lover, the smell alone just drives me crazy.  So the other day I decided to make Chocolate-Scented Play-Dough with my students.

One OT activity that is always a super success with my students is a RECIPE.

It can be any recipe, but the kids always love it.  PLUS, making something from scratch works on SO many different skills for kids.

  1. Bilateral Coordination– Mixing, stirring, and kneading are awesome for encouraging two handed coordination.  This comes easily for some kids and is more difficult for others.   Also, activities that require one hand to stabilize while the other manipulates is great for crossing midline and encouraging hand dominance.
  2. Forearm rotation and strength – Using measuring cups or spoons to scoop ingredients and then dump them into another container is the perfect way to work on forearm strength. Children need to get comfortable changing the positions of their forearm during fine motor activities in order to use thier hands for precise manipulation activities.
  3. Hand Strength and Dexterity – Kneading, rolling, and squeezing the dough is a wonderful (not to mention fun) way to get little hands nice and strong.  Using play dough tools like cookie cutters, scissors, and rolling pins is a great strengthening activity.


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Middle School and Handwriting

How to Improve Horrendous Handwriting When All Hope Is Lost


January 23rd is National Handwriting Day!  Check out “The Handwriting Book”, written by a team of ten pediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists.

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Handwriting and Middle School

Middle School and Handwriting  – part 2

When I first learned that I was getting hired in the district where I currently work, I was beyond thrilled.     A school district job!  It’s like winning the lottery!

Then I heard the rest…

I would be split between two schools.

Okay…I can live with that.

Two MIDDLE schools.  Teenagers.  

Ummm, I’m not sure I can live with that!

I can still remember the creep of red crawling up my neck as I answered the principal on the phone. “Great!  Looking forward to it!”

A million scenarios ran through my head- Will they listen to me?  What if they’re rude? I’m so used to the little kiddos – will I be able to do it?  Butterflies were flying wildly in my stomach.  Self-doubt had totally set in.  

But to tell you the truth – I loved it. The kids were great. Teenagers are just big kids, full of laughter and good-natured mischief.

What really did stink?   All the Handwriting.  Oh, the handwriting.   

Reading messy handwriting is seriously torturous.  Like… comparable to squinting at the sun.handwriting and middle school

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A Quick & Easy Shoe-Tying Trick

A QUick & EAsy SHoe Tying Trick

Today’s Idea: Use two different color pipe cleaners taped to a table to teach your child how to tie a bow.

I’ve taught hundreds of children how to tie. One of the most difficult and frustrating things about tying is that children have to keep both hands on the laces at all times, or the laces will “flop” and you lose your “bow” or “loop”, etc. With pipe cleaners, the loops stay in position, even if the child takes their hands away. This helps them to see what the laces should look like, and makes it less frustrating.



Shoe tying trick Dressing



keyboarding skills

Is my child ready to learn how to keyboard?

<Keyboarding skills are often considered just important (or more) than handwriting.  But when are children developmentally ready?>

keyboarding skills

Developmental Progression of Keyboarding Skills

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and spotted an entire family on their phone or tablet? Technology is everywhere, and there is no getting away from it. I’m sure you’ve read those articles about the importance of limiting technology and screen time, but what about the importance of teaching technology in a developmentally appropriate way?

When are kids ready to learn how to type? 

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How to Adapt Buttoning and Zipping For Your Child

<Buttoning and Zipping can be stressful and difficult to learn.  Check out these OT tricks to adapt buttons and zippers for your kid!>


Busy parents on the go have their plate full in the morning. Breakfast, washing up, brushing teeth, and finding backpacks all help create that chaotic school day morning.

Then don’t forget about getting dressed! 

When little ones can get dressed on their own, it takes a huge burden off moms and dads in the morning.  Buttons and zippers can be a major inconvenience.

BUT- there are some simple ways to adapt buttoning and zipping so that your child can do it independently.

Many toddlers and young school age children wear sweats and leggings to school to avoid the work of buttoning and zipping.

What about older children with weak fine motor skills?

What about children with physical limitations?

They should be able to wear jeans and other clothing just like their peers!    Here’s how.

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