Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Day in the Life | School-based OT, Part 4

Please welcome Miss Jaime, a pediatric occupational therapist who is sharing a day in her life as a school OT. Jaime has a full day at school, and then she hops in her car and heads to her second job at a clinic. Read on to see what her day is like.

8:00 - Arrive at school. Check my mailbox and email. As the only district employed Occupational Therapist for ten buildings, I am often the go-to person for many of my colleagues. Usually I receive a bunch of emails asking for materials such as weighted vests, sensory diet handouts, or notices of CSE meetings that I need to attend.

9:20 - My first push-in into a self contained kindergarten class. There are six students, a teacher and two assistants. We practice learning the words "horizontal, diagonal, and vertical" by standing up, laying down, and tilting ourselves diagonal. Then we practice writing the diagonal letters of the alphabet. 

10:00 - I have another push-in into a self contained class. This is a 12:1:1 ungraded class of children with Developmental Disabilities (ages 7 to 10). There is a teacher, a teacher's assistant and a one to one aide. We do a yoga session today; focusing on upper extremity and core strengthening.

10:50 - After a quick stop to my room to drop off my yoga mats and CD player, I get to my next push-in. This is another 6:1:1 ungraded class of children with Developmental Disabilities (Ages 5 to 7). There are four students, a teacher, a teacher's assistant and three one to one aides. We make "snow" today by mixing corn starch and shaving cream. Some of the children love it, and some need hand over hand from their aide to stick their hands in it. The teacher's aides work really hard to make sure the impulsive students don't put any of the "snow" in their mouths.

11:30 - One last push-in before lunch. This is 6:1:2 second grade class with four students, a teacher, a teacher's assistant, and two one to one aides. We start off by doing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes". I show the children how to build a person using wiki stix on the table. Then we practice drawing people; making sure to remember all the important parts.

12:15 - Lunch time! I have a full period for lunch but I usually check my email again and do a bit of paperwork before heading to the faculty room. Then I grab my lunch and sit with the rest of the teachers who also have lunch that period. 

1:00 - After lunch I have an individual one to one session with a second grade student who is classified with Autism. She has weak core and upper extremity strength. I put her on her belly over a therapy ball to work on increasing her strength while doing a puzzle. Then we practice shoe-tying. At the end of the session, we walk to the office and she practices making eye contact and socializing with the secretaries as she delivers an envelope for me.  

1:30 - After my individual session, I have another class push-in to a self contained second grade class. I've been working with the children to learn how to write in script using the Handwriting Without Tears program. This class is full of multi-sensory learners, so we practice writing our new group of letters on cookie sheets with ketchup! The kids love anything messy so it's a hit. 

2:00 - Prep period. This is my time to answer more emails and finish writing an evaluation of a student that I tested yesterday. The period goes too quickly!

2:45 - My last student is absent. I go to one of the general education kindergarten rooms because the school psychologist asked me to observe a student who has trouble sitting in his chair. The child seems to have sensory seeking behaviors, so I run to my room to get him a seat cushion and Velcro for under the table. The teacher will keep me posted on how the child responds to these strategies. 

3:15 - It's almost dismissal time. I have some time to put away the ketchup, cookie sheets, and yoga mats. Then I pack up the materials that I will need for tomorrow when I spend the day in another building.

Travel Time! I drive to my second job at a sensory gym, which gives me the opportunity to work with preschool children in individual sessions.

4:30 - My first preschooler is a three and half year old boy who has delayed fine motor skills. We do an obstacle course designed to provide sensory input with crawling, climbing, and hopping. This helps him to focus when we go to the easel to practice tracing and copying shapes. At the end of the session, he practices putting his shoes on by himself. We go to the waiting room where I give Mom some tips to work on hand strengthening at home. 

5:00 - My next preschooler is a four year old girl with sensory processing disorder. She is frightened by too much sensory input and is fearful of having her feet off the ground. I adjust the platform swing so it is only an inch off the ground. We sing her favorite songs as I gently swing her back and forth. After a few minutes she is able to sit crisscross applesauce, with her feet off the ground. We go over to the ball pit. She is willing to go in if there are no other kids in there. Otherwise it is too much!

5:30 - My last session of the day is a five year old boy who will be entering Kindergarten in a few months. He has difficulty with visual memory and visual motor skills. He is an active little boy who doesn't like to sit. He climbs up the rock wall to get bean bags with letters on them. After he crashes down into a pile of cushions, he tells me what the letter is and what sound it makes. I write it and he traces it. Then he writes the letter in sand. Finally, he practices writing with a pencil.
6:00 - End of the day! It's been a busy and productive day. 

About Jaime:

Jaime Spencer is a pediatric Occupational Therapist currently working in Long Island, New York. She has 15 years of experience working in the public school based setting and ten years experience working in a sensory gym. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Occupational Therapy from Utica College and a Master's in Special Education from Adelphi University. She was recently certified in Assistve Technology from the California State University Northridge. Jaime Spencer is also the author of the Occupational Therapy blog

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