school therapists, OT advice, occupational therapy, Miss Jaime OT

11 things on a School OT’s Summer To-Do Wish List

Whether you finished strong or crawled to the finish line this past week, you made it to the end of the school year!

You have the summer off…What should you do? 

We have the summer off to relax, recoup, and reenergize …right? Yes! However, we are Occupational Therapy Practitioners.  We are a breed of overachievers who work hard, work more, and work tirelessly, even when we are supposed to relax.

Even though I try to balance my much-earned summer break, going off the grid in the summer only results in stress and being overwhelmed at the beginning of the next school year. Over the years, I have started to keep a Summer To-Do “Wish” List of all the things I would love to do and just don’t have time!

As a school OT, there is always a lot to do, both for your career and personally. Listed below are some amazing ideas of resources to check out, options to support you, and programs that you know you just don’t have time to look into in the midst of the school year.

 

    1. Federal Loan Forgiveness: Did you know that as an OT, we are eligible for student loan forgiveness? Many OTs have had their ENTIRE student loan paid off by applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. There are criteria to meet and it can be a long and confusing process with needed paperwork and financial information. The summer is a great time to check it out and do your research and apply.

    2. NBCOT courses: If you are NBCOT certified, you have a FREE resource at your fingertips! The website offers information and resources for OTs and COTAs as well as free online training and certifications. Earn an NBCOT Digital badge this summer!

    3. AOTA Resources: Am I the only one overwhelmed and feel guilty for not accessing our national resource more?   If you are not sure where to start on their main website, start with their social media sites on Facebook or Twitter. The website is jam-packed with free resources, tip sheets, literature, information, special interest sections, and guides for ALL areas of OT and COTA work. There’s a whole Children and Youth practice section to explore, too.

    4. Learn how to be a Fieldwork Supervisor: With a recent rise in OT graduate programs, the need for OTS and OTAS placement in a school setting has skyrocketed! Many of us are either intrigued or scared to death about supervising a student. Knowing and establishing a connection with your local program(s) is key. This information will be on their websites and will typically give you a step-by-step guide on how to be a Fieldwork supervisor. For example, here is the University of Minnesota’s Fieldwork Educator information page.

    5. Social Media: Let’s be honest, you are either in or you’re out. Something was posted somewhere about something amazing and you saw it…or you didn’t. The social media craze is not just here to stay, but now it’s the main communication tool. Many are still not sure where to start. Although you may have a social media account (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), are you sure you’re using it professionally?   If you want to ensure the grandparents that live across the country know what’s going on with their grandkids, keep that on a personal account. Make another account that you can have/follow for professional networking, posts, and following. Most people/pages/groups that you would want to follow have multiple social media accounts anyway. Here is a link to guide you through the “How to Use Social Media Professionally.”

    6. Update Resume and Social Media Profiles: This is one of the easiest and least time-consuming summer list items to do. Even if you have no plans to search for a job or interview, keeping an updated resume and social media profiles are key to self-reflection and growth in your career. Most of us have annual reviews, this is the opportune time to update. Have you presented at a conference, taught a related class, or even wrote professionally on social media platform? On your evaluation or review, did your boss mention something specific you did for your employer that has made you stand out? These are the types of resume-worthy skills and endorsements that will make you shine. At some point, we all are thinking about trying something new and/or advancing our career. Keeping updated social media profiles, such as LinkedIn, and your resume will provide you with a valuable tool at all times.

    7. Sign up for a Webinar: It can be REALLY hard to take time off work to attend workshops and conferences during the school year. Webinars have been a game changer for attaining CEU’s and allowing you to focus on specific skills, topics, and education in a more flexible and cost-effective way.  Don’t have the time? Most webinars can be purchased, saved, and viewed later! An issue we had in our district for Teacher Workshop Days is that the topics/sessions that were being done that day were geared toward TEACHERS, not OT’s. Not to mention these CEU’s didn’t apply to us or give us our needed license approved credits. I asked my Director of Special Services permission to for a requisition order to pre-purchase a couple of webinars and allow our therapists to complete these instead on those workshop days. APPROVED! Check out these great on-demand webinars from the Pocket OT (affiliate link). 

    8. Go Shopping: I put in a TON of requisition and purchase orders to attain trial items, motor room items, adaptive equipment, assistive technology, and all the other special education items that any classroom needs. From fidgets, adaptive utensils, oral chewies, to testing forms, I have become a master at not only shopping but being approved for these items in my school! However, I learned quickly about the ‘fiscal year.’ Most schools budget year ends June 30 and starts July 1.  At the end of the year, I know who needs what, what needs to be replaced, and what I will need for the next year (well, sort of). Putting together a shopping list in the summer and submitting it after July 1 usually gets approved. And the best part, it is like a birthday party of presents when I get to my office in the fall with everything I need ready to go.


    9. Make Items for your OT Closet: From weighted lap pads, fidgets, glitter jars, and adapted pencil grips. Now is the time to stockpile that calming caddy or compile sensory bins.  Check out Miss Jaime, O.T.’s Pinterest page for ideas.

    10. Templates and Datasheets: How many times have you needed a quick data sheet of the upper and lower case alphabet to track formation? Or what about that beautiful statement you read that explained how visual processing issues can affect reading? Build your template resources and create data sheets now so you can easily print off or cut and paste quickly druing the school year. Consider the statements you write in evaluation summaries for sensory processing, or what how your OT services will look in the least restrictive environment. You can make an entire Google Doc folder for templates and have specific ones for specific areas you test for (sensory, fine motor, handwriting, visual processing) services in least restrictive settings, summaries templates for evaluations, accommodations, and modifications, or assistive technology.

    11. Build Relationships with Your Team: As everyone says their final goodbyes on that last day, we all promise to get together over the summer right? Then do it! The relationships we have with our co-workers, teams, and other staff are precious and absolutely imperative. Make it a point to call a couple of co-workers and go out for a coffee, have lunch, take a walk, meet at the dog park, or whatever toots their horn. We all have stressful jobs.  Having a safe place to vent, share accomplishments, and express ideas and goals help build healthy workplaces and personal relationships with those we spend more time with than our own families sometimes.

To all you school OTs out there, have a wonderful summer break! Take time to rest, relax, recoup, reenergize, but also grow and explore new things! I hope this list of ideas provides you with an option or two of something new to considering accomplishing during your glorious break.

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retained reflexes, primitive reflex testing, school OT, sensory processing disorder, miss jaime OT occupational therapy, contract therapist pros and cons, school OT, advice for school OTs
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7 Myths about Mindfulness & Kids

Are you practicing and teaching mindfulness?

Mindfulness programming with children and in schools is becoming a more popular practice. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or therapist, is there anything stopping you from practicing mindfulness yourself or from using it with children?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing awareness of what is happening in the present moment, accepting thoughts, feelings, sensations, and observations with kindness. Mindfulness is a skill we can develop in order to improve attention and self-regulation.

Many occupational therapists use mindfulness as an intervention tool with students on their caseload. However, occupational therapists can also advocate for universal mindfulness programming in their school/district by educating administration/staff and consulting with teachers on mindfulness implementation.

Below are 7 Myths that may be preventing you or others from implementing mindfulness.

Myth 1 – Mindfulness is just sitting silently.

Meditation is one method of practicing mindfulness, but there are many other components and ways to do so. Explore all types of mindfulness practices to find which ones work best for you! Two examples include:

  • Mindful Movement: Try yoga, tai chi, or simply bringing mindful awareness to walking.
  • Mindful Eating/Tasting: Choose a food or meal and eat very slowly, paying attention to the texture and taste.

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Why not to push handwriting for kids

handwriting, preschool, school, writing, visual motor, graphomotor, OT, Miss Jaime OT

Pushing kids into writing before they are developmentally ready happens to be one of my pet peeves. (I actually have quite a few of them, you can read all about them here. )

Experience has shown me is that children should NOT be pushed into handwriting before they’re ready. So many kids are entering Kindergarten without the basic pre-writing skills they need. Yet the Kindergarten curriculum expects them to be writing right away!

Before handwriting, children need to master pre-writing skills

Pre-writing skills are the lines, shapes, and strokes kids need to master and know before learning how to print the alphabet. They develop from 1 year to 5 years old.

Pre-writing skills ARE important.

Kids need to learn and master pre-writing lines, strokes, and shapes and strengthen their fine
motor skills before learning how to form the letters of their name or the alphabet.

Prewriting Milestones

1-2 years old:

A baby is typically scribbling and learning to make marks on a paper. They are probably holding a crayon or marker with their whole hand. This is called a palmar supinate grasp.

As they develop more control, the next step is to imitate. Maybe you make a line or shape and
then your child imitates that same line or shape.

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My Favorite Parts of #AOTA19

Last week was a complete whirlwind – whew.   I’m finally getting settled at home,  but I wanted to share my highlights of the American Occupational Therapy Association conference in New Orleans, LA.

  1. Reuniting with old friends from across the country and making new ones!

    Every year, two of my girlfriends from Utica College and I attend the conference together, and it feels like we are right back in college.  This year, I also got to hang out with my friend and fellow OT blogger Colleen Beck (From the OT Toolbox) and two other admins of my USA School Based OTs Looking for Change group (Serena Zeidler and Joan Sauvigne-Kirsch).  We had so much fun and definitely had some major brainstorming over the last few days.  It’s amazing what a bunch of OT brains can come up with!   I also attended the AOTA reception for the Communities of Practice. I’m in the state leadership group, so I had the chance to mingle with all the ladies I work with all year long.

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OT advocacy, #SchoolOTs, MissJaimeOT, #SchoolOtsmatter

Why do Occupational Therapists want Educational Credentialing?

You may have heard the buzz about Occupational Therapists advocating for Educational Credentialing. Especially if you work in the education world.

What is Educational Credentialing? 

State Education laws vary from state to state.  But in every single state in the USA (except for four), OTs and PTs are not under the “umbrella” of teachers. They do not have “educational credentials”.

Why not? 

This started in the past.  Way in the past, because OTs and PTs were considered “medical” (like the nurses).  However, educational laws have changed to a more inclusive educational community. This changed how OTs and PTs are employed.

Now, school therapists support children’s academic success.   Unfortunately,  the state education departments haven’t revised their terminology and laws to include OTs and PTs as “educators”.  YET.

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PRIMITIVE REFLEXES- WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY? 

PRIMITIVE REFLEXES- WHAT DOES RESEARCH SAY? 

 

“Evidence-based practice (EBP) is based on integrating critically appraised research results with the practitioner’s clinical expertise, and the client’s preferences, beliefs, and values “(AOTA). 

Primitive reflexes are often a hot topic in OT forums. 

  1. Many OTs believe that retained primitive reflexes can interfere with a child’s learning.

  2. Others feel that the minimal research that’s been done isn’t substantial enough.

Personally, I took the Integrated Learning Strategies Retained Primitive Reflex Course, and when I tested some of my students that exhibited the symptoms, I saw exactly when the course said I would.  You can see examples of retained reflexes here.

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