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.

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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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An “Old O.T.’s” Advice for other “School O.T.s”

Forward from Miss Jaime, O.T.:  When I first graduated from OT school, I got a job working as a contract therapist in a public school.  I had no supervisor, no mentor, and no one to ask questions.

Thank goodness, I ended up placed in a school with such a large caseload that there was also another (more experienced) OT.   She took me under her wing and offered me informal mentorship and much invaluable advice as a colleague and friend.

I left that agency very soon to get a district job, but I am forever grateful to my first mentor, Diane Fine, Occupational Therapy Extraordinaire.  Twenty years later, Diane still works for that agency in that building and has generously offered to share her experiences and advice to new school OTs in the field. Continue reading

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Understanding Your Child’s Annual Review Test Scores

Learn more about Sensory Processing in this FREE webinar!

Annual review time can be stressful for parents and teachers.

Unfortunately, sometimes the child simply doesn’t qualify for what a parent is asking for.  It’s very important to understand your child’s test scores and to know the special education process.

Understanding Your Child’s Standardized Test Scores

The district will only provide special education services to a child who is significantly behind his peers. A child who is “Below Average” is NOT significantly delayed.

Parents are often unhappy with “Below Average” or “Low Average”, but those terms are still within the Average range.

First, a child meets eligibility criteria to be classified as a child who needs specialized instruction in order to access their curriculum. Then, the Committee on Special Education or the Committee on Preschool Special Education will classify that child into one of 13 different categories.  They will develop an IEP  (Individualized Education Program).

The classification DOES NOT determine the level of services a child will receive. For example, a classification of Autism does not automatically mean the child will receive more services.

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