Monday, April 20, 2015

A Day in the Life | School-based OT, Part 1

Today I am excited to kick off a week of school-based OTs sharing what a day in their life is like. What I love about this is you'll see that every school OT has a different "typical" day. Thank you Claire for getting this week started!

Even before I started OT school, I knew that I wanted to work in pediatrics and that I would most likely want to work in a school-based setting.  Our professors urged us to keep an open mind, to consider working with aging adults (most likely because there are many jobs for OTs in skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation facilities, and hospitals), but I was always knew that it was my calling to working with kids and that I loved being in a school environment.

When I think of occupational therapy and pediatrics, I automatically think of schools...the place where kids spend a huge chunk of their day, the place where they are expected to navigate their surroundings, demonstrate independence and autonomy with learning, interact in a healthy way with their peers, access their tools and belongings, and much more.  This is the stuff occupational therapists’ dreams are made of!

I work in a preschool and primary school building and hardly a day goes by that I don’t see the clear and lasting impact of my work on the way my students are able to participate and function in their classrooms and around the school building.  From the bus to lunch time to recess to circle time - school-based OTs are able to touch kids’ lives in a unique and positive way.

Now, before I get too carried away...there are some things about being a school-based occupational therapist that I didn’t bargain for.  

First off, I work in a closet.  While it is a larger utility/storage closet, it is a closet nonetheless, making it really hard when you want to get kids up and moving for some sensory or gross motor fun.  But not to worry, this is where my other “office” comes into play...the hallway!  We school-based OTs, PTs, and SLPs are well-versed in practicing therapy in school hallways, corners, nooks, and crannies - and we do it with style! Yep, the life of a school OT isn’t all glitz and glamour. But it’s all worth it!

Here’s what a typical day looks like for me:

8:00 - 8:15 Check emails and respond to teachers/administrators/other therapists regarding meetings and collaborations/consultations for students .
8:15 - 8:45 Plan treatment sessions for the day and pull supplies from storage
8:45 - 9:30 Begin treatments for the day with students who need support during the arrival routine (getting off the bus, hanging up their belongings in the coat rooms, starting the day with morning work).
9:30 - 11:00 Treatment sessions with preschool students.  These sessions can be one-on-one with a student, in the classroom with all of the student’s peers, or co-treatment groups with other therapists (PT, SLP).
11:00 - 12:00 Lunchtime treatment sessions with students who are working on goals related to feeding, managing containers and packages, and/or navigating the lunch line/lunch room setting.
12:00 - 1:00 Treatment sessions with kindergarten students or students in the classroom for children with multiple disabilities.  Again, these can be one-on-one sessions, sessions in the classroom with all of the student’s peers, or co-treatments with other therapists.
1:00 - 3:00 Afternoon treatment sessions with preschool students.  
3:00 - 3:30 Treatment sessions with students who need support during the departure routine (putting on coats and backpacks, packing up at the end of the day, changing shoes/boots, etc.).
3:30 - 4:00 Paperwork (writing IEPs and MFEs, billing Medicaid, etc.) and returning emails

Things to note…
Yep - there’s no lunch time.  It is what it is.  Somewhere in there, you have to inhale a granola bar while running down the hallway to see your next student.  I usually bring lots of little snacks to eat throughout the day, but typically don’t get to my lunch until 3:30!

There is also no scheduled time to consult with teachers and parents regarding students’ progress or to pass along strategies and ideas.  And yet, this might just be the most important part of the job!  Most consultation time happens on the fly - before school at the copy machine, after school in the staff lounge, or as you’re running down the hall in between treatment sessions (are you sensing a theme here? :)  Most of my parent phone calls happen in the car on the way home from work or in the evening.

Above all, consultation and collaboration requires building strong relationships and being open to chat whenever you can (even if it’s not the most convenient time)!

There is no scheduled time for evaluations or meetings.  This can get tricky and requires some creative juggling of your schedule.  Many times when things get busy, we create co-treatment groups between speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.  This helps open up our schedules a little bit to fit everything in!

The keywords when it comes to school-based therapy are flexibility, creativity, and independence. All of this creative scheduling takes place without anyone telling you where to be or when to be there.  You definitely have to have your ducks in a row (and a steady supply of coffee and chocolate doesn’t hurt either).

Here are some of my favorite ideas for helping kids get ready for school.  And if you’re looking for quick, easy ideas for helping kids with developmental skills - check out these quick tips for child development!

About Claire:
Claire Heffron, MS OTR/L is the co-creator of The Inspired Treehouse, where she and Lauren Drobnjak (PT) write about child development and creative activities for kids that promote healthy development and well-being.  Claire is mom to two funny, rambunctious boys and has worked for 9 years as an OT in a preschool/primary school setting.  

Connect with Claire:
Follow The Inspired Treehouse on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram to get great ideas for supporting healthy development in your kids!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I could have written an identical post. I love the autonomy of my job, and I'm so glad someone else has the same crazy schedule as me.


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