Monday, August 21, 2017

50+ Scheduling Tips for School Based Therapists

Scheduling Tips School Based THerapistsScheduling Tips for School-Based Therapists

Over the last few weeks, the Your Therapy Source survey was on scheduling tips for school-based therapists.  It was a simple two question survey: what is your job title and what is your best suggestion for creating therapy schedules?  You can answer the current survey here.
For question #1, the majority respondents (66%) were occupational therapists.
Here are the 50+ responses to the question: what is your best suggestion for creating therapy schedules?
Group by school, then consider eligibility/meeting days, then best time to see students that day dependent on individual goals/class fine motor or visual motor time.
In the school based setting, one needs to schedule according to teachers schedules in school; some are more flexible than others.
Check with teachers regarding classroom schedules including reading and math blocks, specials (PE, art, music, etc.). I usually ask them for the best and worst time to see students. Check student goals to see which can be accomplished in the classroom (and therefore helpful to teacher too) and match up students with similar goals and level of function.
I am a teletherapist so I use a shared google calendar for one of my schools so that my paraprofessional can see when I am available and so that she can schedule my students during my available time. For my virtual students, I send the parents an email using the mixmax add on so that they are able to click their time preference. If I am available, it automatically schedules them on my google calendar. If I am not available, then they can choose another option from the times in my email.
google calender
I wish I knew
Be flexible, Write in Pencil, Schedule middle and high school first, as their schedules are typically less flexible.
Begin with a pencil! I have a loose schedule the first 2 weeks of school. I usually coordinate with the speech therapist first since they usually see the student multiple times per week. I have also found that if I schedule a school on meeting days I have a better chance of being the only related service that sees students on that day. If I miss a student that day due to a meeting, I can add them with another student that same day!
Outlook Calendar so it syncs with those scheduling meetings and can be shared with select teachers, admin etc…..
Go to the teachers first and find out when is the best time to schedule their students.
I have a schedule starter sheet. It is a list with an empty day schedule on the left side to be filled out as I establish good times to see the student. On the right, it lists the student’s name, grade, teacher, IEP date and service time, lunch and special times, and I get from the teachers the best time to see the students (so I avoid instruction time). On the top of the sheet, it has the school hours, and a grid for a list of the different service providers for that school, PE teacher, school nurse. I use this sheet throughout the school year to add new students, or mark when they have moved out of district. I go around to all of my schools, get the individual calendars and the staff list with phone extensions, the specials, lunch, and recess schedules. I schedule the schools with the largest number of students first, and then fill in with the schools with fewer students.
Determine need of districts sped students, With job description, allot time needed for paperwork and collaboration. Curriculum of students should communicate needs or gaps that OT can help with…if we are “academic based”.
I wish I knew
Consolidate holiday sessions
Schedule older students and those who receive all services first
I make three different options for each child then regardless of who is absent I have alternatives to who is available for any given block of time. It really is less work than it sounds.
Schedule the hardest students to fit into an OT schedule. Schedule students that are in the middle school first as they change classes. then scheduled the elementary students who are in the same class throughout the day.
If possible, bring the entire team (teachers and other therapists) together to work out mutually compatible schedules so it’s not a “race” to see who claims their “day” first. If that could be done at the schools where you spend the most time, then hopefully other schools, with small caseloads, will be flexible with what’s left of your time and things will work! It’s worth hoping!!
Get the whole school schedule and then build in your times around recess/lunch specials. Push into language arts
Communicate directly with teachers and other therapists, and be flexible! Teachers know how to pair students well.
put it in pencil- you know you are going to have to change it 100 times!
Flexibility! Speaking with the student’s teacher is of course, an initial contact that must be made to ensure smooth scheduling. Showing an investment in the student and communicating a respect for the teacher’s predetermined classroom time and scheduling sets off the year to a good start. I try to find natural lulls during the school day — planned movement breaks or recess plus or minus a few minutes. I try to avoid pulling students during those times in the day when I’ve observed them come most alive in the classroom. (That is calendar time for some of my kiddos!). Routine is really important to most of my students, and I try to give them this consistency as often as I can.
I am still working on it!!! Our supervisor tells us what day to go to each school so within the day I have to figure out when to see the kids.  First I plug in who may go home early, then when each grades lunch and specials are. Then I look at IEP to see what subject OT supports. Try to fit it all into a puzzle by hand. I do best with sticky note tabs or pencil and paper.
Coordinating between school administration and other therapy services.
I try to set a day and time frame for the building (ie Thursday afternoons) when asking classroom teachers for serving the students. I then ask for their schedule,and find opportunities within their own schedule, and then work towards supporting the student within their own classroom working on items that relate to therapy supported educational goals.By setting day and time since we all seem to cover many buildings,it provides an opportunity to be more consistent on a weekly basis in servicing all students within all buildings.
Be flexible! Write initial schedule in pencil and be prepared to change it…many times!
Flexibility! I try to schedule time in a school and then “catch” the students during their PE class, music class, recess, diaper changes, or when getting on/off the bus and use those opportunities to teach staff while I do therapy with the students. Lead and teach by example.  Gathering all the specials schedules(art, music, PE) and core subjects so we have those before putting students on a schedule. Also getting classroom schedules helps with knowing when to push-in for writing, etc. Meeting with special ed teachers to work on the schedule together greatly helps.
Start early! Before school starts. Most schools have master schedules completed before school starts. Set up a meeting with your school administrators.
I work in a rural district and travel to multiple schools in a day. My travel path is what dictates my therapy schedule which is probably not the best but when traveling to 4-5 schools in a day, it truly is my only option. Within the time I am within each school, I try to be the least disruptive to each child’s regular schedule whenever possible.
Depends on teachers and special class schedules in school. I usually work in between.
Patience! Start early with the most difficult students to schedule and be prepared to correct LOTS of drafts.
We try to work with the student where they are struggling the most.
I email each teacher or grade (some share students) for suggestions – not perfect but they know their schedule better than I can just by looking at a master schedule.
Email school principal / secretary the week before school starts to have them email you special / lunch / recess schedules/ class lists. Take an empy schedule with times and then write every student’s name for that building on the tiny sticky notes (1/4″ or so by 1 to 1 1/2″). After getting the special schedules etc. start placing stickies in the time slots of your empty schedule. I like to email the teachers with times then they can reference that time or let you know if it is not a good time, or write it on a card for them if you have several students in their class.
Other than being flexible and starting asap, provide the teacher with 2, or even 3, time slots. Some teachers are so flexible but for those who are not, giving them a choice seems to help our future relationship if you know what I mean! 😉
Ask at the office for the master specials, lunch and recess schedule before talking to any teacher about a specific student.
Prioritize scheduling students who mainstream from self-contained homerooms to general education settings first. Then schedule resource room students next. Then schedule general education students and last schedule full day self-contained. Be sure to schedule in travel time between schools and for students who may need to be picked up to/from their class. Share your schedule with the teachers as you complete it to receive quick feedback about scheduling conflicts or circumstances and ultimately share it with the pertinent case managers, principals, CST secretary, school secretary, counselors and special area teachers for each student.
pray. LOL. First find out about ‘special’ schedules, then talk to ST to coordinate with them, and then the teachers.
Build in room to be flexible if at all possible
Create a survey asking teachers the 3 best times to work with students and then attempt to create a schedule from this.
Start with the students with the highest minutes. Group by location. Keep calm and schedule on!
Plan early and be flexible
Class time
Collaborate with special education teachers for push-in times; set up a meeting time with speech/PT/etc to set schedules with teachers.
Schedule your kids with the most restrictive availability first.
Tell them your schedule is very tight, every change has a domino effect and you wish you could be more flexible. Say it very nicely, with a smile.
Scheduling has to be a balance of the client’s needs and yours as a therapist.
Make schedule then present to teachers. Make as early as possible.
Create an excel spreadsheet and paste names into time blocks and shuffle as needed.
Good luck everyone!  Scheduling is a super stressful time.  But, once done it is such a relief to get started working with the students!  Please take a moment to participate in the current survey here.
Once all your students are scheduled, stay organized with the Therapy Planner.  The new, updated planners are ready for you to get started on organizing your work life.

The post 50+ Scheduling Tips for School Based Therapists appeared first on Your Therapy Source.

10 Games to Practice Crossing Midline

Practice Crossing MidlineCrossing midline is the ability to cross over an imaginary line down the center of your body from head to toes, separating the body into a left and right side.  This skill requires that the right and left sides of the brain work together to create a motor action.  Here are 10 games to play to practice crossing midline:

Participating in a tug of war.  A fun game of tug of war encourages hands to midline, hands to cross the midline and excellent proprioceptive input.

Play with toy cars.  Draw a big road on a flattened cardboard box.  The child can sit on the floor and drive the car along the road crossing the midline.

Relay races that encourage bilateral coordination skills.  Run to a cone and complete 10 windmills or 10 cross crawls and return to start.  Line up children shoulder to shoulder and pass the ball down the line from child to child.  Line up children back to back.  Pass the ball to each other keeping your backs touching.

Play baseball.  Holding onto a bat and swinging at a ball (on a tee or pitched) encourage the hands to cross the midline.

Play tennis.  Hit a tennis ball with different shots.  Each shot encourages a different trajectory across the midline.  Practice a forehand swing, backhand swing, and overhead serve.  If you do not have a tennis racquet or it is too difficult for the child, makes paper plate paddles and use a balloon practicing the same swings.

Participate in musical circle games.  Certain musical games encourage children to maintain rhythm (super important skill) and cross the midline.  Play hot potato but you must hold the ball with two hands at all times.  Dance the hokey pokey.

Play clapping games.  Girls, in particular, love to play clapping games.  Teach children Miss Mary Mack or check out You Tube to learn new hand claps.

Make big art.  Tape a square box to the floor.  Have the child stand in it in front of the whiteboard or chalkboard.  Try making the biggest rainbow that you can but do not move your feet.  Snap a photo when done to save a picture of the big art.  Try creating this long maze that encourages the child to cross the midline.  The freebie will open in a new tab.

Dig in the dirt or sand.  Have the child sit down, kneel or squat.  Place a bucket on one side of the child and the shovel on the other side.  Have the child dig and then rotate to place the dirt in the bucket.   Do not let the child switch hands with the shovel when going to put the dirt in the bucket.

Play Simon Says.  Use instructions and movement such as “put your right hand on your left shoulder” or “touch your left knee with your right hand”.  Download this free sample Simon Says page for children to copy body positions crossing midline.  Play Simon Says Exercise Ball style.

Visual Motor Exercises consists of 25 long mazes to complete that encourage crossing midline.  Find out more.
10 Games to Practice Crossing Midline

The post 10 Games to Practice Crossing Midline appeared first on Your Therapy Source.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Meet the Therapist Letter Freebie for Back to School

Meet the Therapist LetterMeet the Therapist Letter Freebie for Back to School

Back to school is upon and one of the most important jobs of a school based therapist is to keep open lines of communication with teachers, staff, and parents.  Complete this FREE Meet the Therapist Letter for Back to School to start the year off right (free download at end of post).

Parents may encounter new teachers, staff, and therapists from school year to school year which can be difficult. School staff, parents and school based therapists can help to forge stronger relationships by communicating with each other.  This can be the key to a student’s success if everyone is on the same page.

The Meet the Therapist Letter can be edited in Google Slides or Powerpoint (or just print as a PDF and hand write in the boxes).  You are not able to edit the basic layout, but you can edit each text box.  You can change the job title to anything in Google Slides or Powerpoint i.e. OT, PT, COTA, PTA, Speech Language Pathologist, Teacher, etc.

This letter helps to provide information about you, your education, experience and contact information.  View the sample Meet the PT letter.

Meet the Physical Therapist Letter

When you download the freebie, be sure to edit the one page or start fresh by just typing into the text boxes.

If you want more forms and templates to increase communication between school and home check out, School and Home Communication Forms for Therapists.

Therapists, school staff, and parents are all so busy it can be hard to communicate. This collection of forms will save you loads of time. Therapists can review schedules, report on daily or weekly progress, track behavior, review IEP goals, track communication and more. It is suitable for all school based therapists. Parents can request therapist to complete daily or weekly updates especially beneficial for non-verbal children.  There are 21 forms including:

  • Therapy Schedule
  • Therapy Update 1
  • Therapy Update 2
  • Therapy Notes
  • Behavior Form
  • Teacher Communication Log
  • Parent/Guardian Communication Log
  • Weekly Log
  • Daily Log
  • Great News
  • Letter of Concern
  • Getting to Know You
  • Pre-IEP Input
  • Goal Review with Student
  • Goal Review for Teachers
  • Goal Review for Parent/Guardian
  • Therapy Lesson Plan
  • Communication Checklist
  • Therapy Survey for Kids
  • Therapy Satisfaction Survey for Parents/Guardians
  • Therapy Satisfaction Survey for Teachers

Find out more about School and Home Communication Forms for Therapists.

Read 5 Steps to Increase Communication this School Year.

To download your FREE Meet the Therapist Letter sign up to receive our email newsletter and you will be redirected to the zip file.  If you are already a subscriber just enter your email and you the download will start.

Meet the Therapist Letter

The post Meet the Therapist Letter Freebie for Back to School appeared first on Your Therapy Source.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Functional Fine Motor Activities for Kids Using Household Items

Functional Fine Motor ActivitiesFunctional Fine Motor Activities for Kids Using Household Items

Functional fine motor activities for kids are so important to childhood development.  They are the building blocks for higher level skills such as using scissors, drawing, dressing, eating, handwriting and more!  Children need to experience frequent practice with fine motor activities to refine the movements in the fingers and hands before ever picking up a pencil.  Of course, there are plenty of toys to practice fine motor skill development but you can also infuse the entire day with functional fine motor tasks.  Here are 10 functional fine motor activities for kids using items from around the house:

  1. Pick up small pieces of food such as Cheerios, raisins, etc. using thumb and index finger.
  2. Open and close twist ties on bread and bakery bags.
  3. When eating breakfast foods such as a bagel, muffin or roll, pull off small pieces using thumb, index and middle fingertips.
  4. Practice screwing toothpaste cap on and off.
  5. Place lunch money (in coins) on the table and have the child pick coins up, using the thumb, index and middle fingers, without sliding money to the edge of the table.  Or have the child put the coins into a bank.
  6. Place lunch money in a plastic bag with slide zip top and have child seal the bag.
  7. Practice opening all lids (if the child has difficulty opening lid independently start opening it and then have child finish opening it).
  8. Table washing: using a spray bottle with water in it, squeeze the trigger with index and middle fingers while ring and pinky finger hold the bottle neck then wipe off with a towel.
  9. When reading, use one hand to hold the book and the other hand to turn the pages.
  10. Help with food preparation such as crush garlic in a garlic press, using thumb and index finger snap ends off green beans, rip lettuce up for salad, dry lettuce off in a salad spinner, use tongs to dish out salad, rolls or ice cubes and push toothpicks into snacks holding with thumb and index finger.

All of these activities and more suggestions like these are listed in Therapeutic Activities for Home and School.  This book provides pediatric therapists with over forty, uncomplicated, reproducible activity sheets and tips that can be given to parents and teachers. Each activity sheet is written in a simple format with no medical terminology. The therapist is able to simply mark the recommended activities for each child. By providing parents and teachers with these handy checklists, therapists will be encouraging therapeutic activities throughout the entire day rather than time set aside for traditional home exercise programs. This book is an essential tool for all school based therapists to facilitate carry over of therapeutic activities in the home and classroom.  FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION.

Therapeutic Activities for Home and School DOWNLOAD

Functional Fine Motor Activities


The post Functional Fine Motor Activities for Kids Using Household Items appeared first on Your Therapy Source.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Motor Learning Strategy: The Five-Step Approach

Motor Learning Strategy Five Step ApproachMotor Learning Strategy: The Five-Step Approach

As pediatric therapists, we constantly utilize motor learning strategies to help children acquire new motor skills.  One motor learning strategy that has been heavily researched is Singer’s Five-Step Approach.  This approach to learning a new motor task consists of the following five steps:

Step One – Readying:  The learner adopts a mechanical, attitudinal, and emotional position for delivering a high-quality attempt at the new motor task. This step may involve adopting a particular posture, completing preparatory activities such as a practice swing, or a breathing exercise.

Step Two – Imaging:  The learner uses visual or kinesthetic imagery for the desired action or outcome.

Step Three – Focusing: The learner focuses his or her attention on one relevant cue or feature of the task, blocking out all distractions.

Step Four – Executing: The learner attempts to execute the skill without consciously guiding the movement.  Just do the motor task without thinking about it.

Step Five – Evaluating:  The learner must evaluate the performance and how effectively steps 1-4 were applied.  Determine what to adjust when completing the motor task again.

The Five-Step Approach has been shown to be effective in a range of tasks, with various populations and with children and adults.  In addition, studies have indicated that once taught this approach, learners can transfer the strategy to learning a new novel motor task.  Recent research even indicates that learners who were taught the five-step learning strategy successfully recalled and applied it after a 1-month interval, and they demonstrated superior performance on both acquisition and transfer tasks, relative to the control group (Kearney & Judge, 2017).

When you are teaching a new motor skill, such as catching, throwing or higher level gross motor skills such as skipping, perhaps give the Five -Step Approach a try.


Kearney, P. E., & Judge, P. (2017). Successful Transfer of a Motor Learning Strategy to a Novel Sport. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 0031512517719189.

Singer, R. N. (1988). Strategies and metastrategies in learning and performing selfpaced athletic skills. The Sport Psychologist, 2, 49–68. Retrieved from: http:///

Singer, R. N., & Cauraugh, J. H. (1985). The generalizability effect of learning strategies for categories of psychomotor skills. Quest, 37, 103–119. doi:10.1080/00336297.1985.10483824

Do you need help teaching children to catch, throw and kick?  Teaching Catching, Throwing and Kicking Skills: Help children learn how to catch, throw and kick with this packet full of information of age progression of skills, visual picture cards, tips, letter to parents and more!  FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION.


Motor Learning Strategy Five Step Approach

The post Motor Learning Strategy: The Five-Step Approach appeared first on Your Therapy Source.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Add Laughter to Your Handwriting Practice

Add Some Laughter to Your Handwriting Practice

Add Laughter to Your Handwriting Practice

Here are some FUN free decoding jokes to add laughter to your handwriting practice!  This activity was created by Thia Triggs, school based Occupational Therapist, and is part of the complete Decoding Jokes packet here.

Not only does this activity provide handwriting practice, it also encourages:

  • Executive function and problem-solving skills.
  • Visual perceptual skills including visual discrimination, and visual memory.
  • Gaze shift -needed for reading, copying from the board, and getting information from the environment.
  • Attention and focus.
  • Pragmatic language skills.
  • Auditory skills of listening and memory.
  • Group skills: cooperation, communication, and visual perceptual skills.


Decoding Jokes

Check out the complete Decoding Jokes packet.

Add Laughter Handwriting Practice

The post Add Laughter to Your Handwriting Practice appeared first on Your Therapy Source.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Instruction Influences Handwriting Automaticity in Children

Instruction Influences Handwriting Automaticity in ChildrenInstruction Influences Handwriting Automaticity in Children

Reading and Writing published research on handwriting automaticity of 177 Australian children in 23 classrooms at the end of kindergarten and the amount and type of writing instruction they experienced before entering first grade.  Individual child level data (e.g., handwriting automaticity and word-reading skills) were collected and teachers were asked to complete a survey assessing the amount of time and types of writing activities developed in their classrooms (e.g., teaching basic skills and teaching writing processes).

The results indicated:

  • a total variance of approximately 20% in children’s handwriting automaticity attributable to differences among classrooms when gender and word-reading skills were controlled for.
  • large variability in the amount and type of writing instruction reported by a subset of participating teachers.

The researchers concluded that handwriting automaticity was associated with the teaching of revising strategies but not with the teaching of handwriting.   Many different strategies were used to teach writing and the skills being taught, from turning sounds into letters to the planning of ideas to express in writing.  The researchers will now examine the students’ development of writing skills across time points to understand these initial results further in order to identify classroom-based practices that will lead to improved writing skills.

Many schools use specific handwriting curriculums to help reduce variance among classrooms for handwriting instruction.  At Your Therapy Source, we offer three handwriting tools and curriculums to help support handwriting instruction.

This Handwriting Bundle for PreK-5th Graders was created by school based occupational therapist, Thia Triggs of Print Path. This Handwriting Without Tears© -style letter font, uses 3-lines to best support your students. There are Go-Dots, Gray-Boxes, and Simple Arrows that inform rather than confuse learners. Best practices include research based methods incorporating application of developmental and motor learning theories to benefit your struggling learners.  Get 8 of the best handwriting instruction downloads for your multi-leveled interventions!  FIND OUT MORE.

Handwriting Heroes digital download is a highly effective, and easy to implement program for learning how to write lower case letters accurately and fluently. This powerful teaching tool is designed to accelerate handwriting instruction.  This handwriting program includes everything you need for consistent handwriting instruction for lower case letters.  FIND OUT MORE.

Handwriting on the Wall© WINTM Write Incredibly NowTM

Write Incredibly Now ™(W.I.N. TM) is an exclusive U.S. trademarked handwriting program of Children’s Special Services, LLC and designed by Susan N. Schriber Orloff, OTR/L!  It breaks manuscript into three forms and cursive into four using colors instead of directional cues, as well as gross and fine motor games. You get both the manuscript and the cursive programs in reusable workbook form for multiple use. There are games, activities and follow-up suggestions so that the child can individually continue the program after the 12 hours are “over”.  There is plenty of room to add your own creativity too!!  FIND OUT MORE.


Malpique, A. A., Pino-Pasternak, D., & Valcan, D. Handwriting automaticity and writing instruction in Australian kindergarten: an exploratory study. Reading and Writing, 1-24.

Murdoch University. Later literacy success hinges on early handwriting lessons.  Retrieved from the web on 8/10/17 at

Instruction Influences Handwriting Automaticity in Children

The post Instruction Influences Handwriting Automaticity in Children appeared first on Your Therapy Source.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...