Tips for a First-Time School Occupational Therapist

May 15th, 2019 | Posted by bbarr in Education Services

As a school-based occupational therapist, you make a real difference. Your work with students helps them flourish academically and socially. From helping kids learn how to write to teaching them finer motor coordination, your contributions to their daily lives are invaluable.

Each and every day will be different, as no two students are ever the same. While this is great in some ways (you’ll never be bored!), your first travel assignment might feel a little intimidating. Here are some tips to ease the transition.

Get Organized

When you start at a fresh school with new students, a lot will be coming your way. It’s important to reduce that feeling of overwhelm as much as possible!  Get a binder and have separate sections for each of your students. Some things that’ll be helpful for you to have handy:

  • Student information sheet
  • Family contact form
  • Exercise sheets
  • Treatment notes
  • Monthly and weekly calendars

Having everything in its place will go a long way in helping you feel calm, cool, and collected.

Make Strong Connections

All around you, there are people who can help you that want you to succeed. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask! Your Director of Special Education is an obvious connection – they’ll know of any resources that can make your first few weeks easier.

There are other great staff members that can help, too: your students’ teachers, the school principal, administrative assistants, and fellow therapists. Introduce yourself and start building solid relationships. You’re all in this together. And of course, your recruiter will have some great leads to get you started.

Observe First

Before starting any recommendations or activities, you’ll want to wait and see first. As an Occupational Therapist, you should first observe your students throughout the day. See how they manage at their locker, during recess, at lunch, and in the classroom. You might catch an issue where the teacher never even noticed that your student was struggling.

Likewise, an assumed behavior issue might just be a problem with the student’s environment. Maybe they’re having trouble taking notes or concentrating on the lesson due to writing motor difficulties.

As a school-based OT, you have the power to make a real difference in many young lives. Are you ready to begin a personally rewarding and transformative career? See available opportunities to see where your journey might take you next!

Written by Aubrey Schieuer

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