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OTS 125: Exploring Dyslexia: Understanding and Supporting Students
Click on your preferred podcast player link to listen wherever you enjoy podcasts. Welcome to the show notes for Episode 125 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast. How much do you really know about dyslexia? Join us as we explore this often-misunderstood learning disorder. Jayson and Penny dive into the importance of evaluation, therapy, and the crucial support needed for teachers and students facing dyslexia. Tune in to learn more! Listen now to learn the following objectives: Learners will identify the ties between dyslexia and mental health. Learners will identify what dyslexia is and the common misconceptions. Learners will identify effective teaching strategies for supporting students with dyslexia in the classroom. Want to Earn CEUs for listing to this episode? Members of the OT Schoolhouse Collaborative can earn professional development by listening to this episode of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast and others. Join the OT Schoolhouse Collaborative to earn professional development from the OT Schoolhouse Podcast and get support as a school-based OT practitioner. Guest Bio Penny Stack, OTD, OTR/L, CLT, has over 30 years of experience as an occupational therapist, which includes working with children who have special learning needs. Penny is certified in Handwriting Without Tears, has a master’s in Occupational Therapy from Samuel Merritt College, and a doctorate degree in Occupational Therapy from Loma Linda University. Her research on closed-head injuries and cognitive retraining has been published in the Brain Injury Journal. Penny’s current research is entitled, Dyslexia and Its Impact on Occupation: The lived experience. Quotes “So as occupational therapists and teachers and people who support and work with children, we have something that really is unique to us, and that is the skill of observation, and it's powerful” - Penny Stack, OTD, OTR/L, CLT “Dyslexia is a symptom of a problem, not the actual problem itself" - Jayson Davies, M.A., OTR/L “They have the ability, but their performance is much lower than their ability, that gap. That's the dyslexia” - Penny Stack, OTD, OTR/L, CLT “If they have a specific learning disability, they fall under an IEP with that category, the likelihood of them having dyslexia is most likely pretty high” -Penny stack, OTD, OTR/L, CLT Resources Dyslexia RX DTVP- A:2 Developmental Test of Visual Processing Skills BERRY VMI -Visual-Motor Integration The Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities CTOPP -The Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing GORT - The Gray Oral Reading Test Jordan Left-Right Reversal Test TIPS - Test for Information Processing Skills Thanks for listening to the OT Schoolhouse Podcast. A podcast for school-based OT practitioners! Be sure to subscribe to the OT Schoolhouse email list & get access to our free downloads of Gray-Space paper and the Occupational Profile for school-based OTs. Subscribe now! Thanks for visiting the podcast show notes! If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts Click here to view more episodes of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast
Handwriting and Fine Motor Assessment Tools in School-based OT
It is well established that fine motor skills are crucial in students' school activities and academic performance. In 2020, Caramia et al. established that "Students spent between 37.1% and 60.2% of the school day performing fine motor activities, with handwriting accounting for 3.4%–18.0% of the day." This data comes from a study where the researchers observed kindergarten, second, and fourth-grade classrooms. They also found that transitions accounted for about 20% of the day, but we'll save that for another time. As school-based OT practitioners, we know that there is more to the occupation of education than handwriting, but it is also fair to say that fine motor and handwriting concerns make up a large part of our referrals. Since there is such a high rate of referrals for fine motor and handwriting concerns, you will likely need a few assessment tools on hand to assess these skills. This blog post provides an overview of common fine motor assessment tools used by school-based OT practitioners, categorized into tools that assess handwriting skills and those with a broader focus on fine motor skills. Let's start with handwriting-specific tools. Fine Motor Assessment Tools for Handwriting Assessing handwriting skills is a vital aspect of school-based occupational therapy, as proficient handwriting (or a reasonable and effective accommodation for handwriting) is essential for students' written expression and academic success. Several assessment tools have been specifically designed to evaluate handwriting skills, providing therapists with valuable insights into a student's legibility, speed, pencil grasp, and letter formation. The Minnesota Handwriting Assessment (MHA), Print Tool, Evaluation Tool of Children's Handwriting (ETCH), and Test of Handwriting Skills-Revised (THS-R) are widely recognized tools that assist OT practitioners in assessing and addressing handwriting difficulties in students. Here are some of each tool's characteristics, along with some pros and cons of each tool. Test of Handwriting Skills-Revised (THS-R): Completion time: Approximately 25 minutes Age range: 6 years to 18 years 11 months Pros: Assesses both manuscript and cursive handwriting skills (although I never used the cursive tool) Provides norm-referenced scores for legibility, form, alignment, and size Tests writing without lines so you can get an idea of the student's ability to maintain level writing Cons: Limited age range - may not be suitable for older students. Does not assess fluency of handwriting Scoring of each letter can be tedious until you understand the patterns (like gaps = a score of 1, and overshoots = a score of 2) Pro Tip: The THS-R is identified as a test of "neurosensory skills," not as an assessment of handwriting. However, it does function as a functional writing assessment and national norms for scoring. Minnesota Handwriting Assessment (MHA): Completion time: Around 15 minutes Age range: Grades 1 and 2 Pros: Norm-referenced tool Evaluates letter formation, legibility, speed, and pencil grasp Provides a comprehensive analysis of handwriting skills Cons: Extremely limited age range Easy to administer, difficult and time-consuming to score Pro Tip: Check the desk height and other environmental factors prior to starting. That goes for all of these tools. Print Tool: Completion time: A few minutes to administer & 10 minutes to score Age range: Preschool through 6th grade Pros: Assesses letter formation, sizing, spacing, and overall legibility Provides a clear profile of a student's handwriting strengths and areas for improvement Ties in with the Handwriting Without Tears writing curriculum Cons: Does not assess the speed or fluency of handwriting Pro Tip: Learning Without Tears offers free handwriting screening printouts on their website at LWTears.com Evaluation Tool of Children's Handwriting (ETCH): Completion time: Around 15 minutes Age range: 6-12 years Pros: Evaluates multiple components of handwriting, including letter and number formation, alignment, spacing, and pencil grip Offers specific guidelines for intervention based on identified areas of difficulty No cost to purchase scoring handbooks - They allow you to make copies when you purchase the tool. Assess both individual letter legibility AND word legibility Cons: Takes a moment to learn the scoring, but is on par with other handwriting assessment tools. Pro Tip: Jayson's preferred handwriting assessment Fine Motor Assessment Tools with a Broader Focus While handwriting is crucial, occupational therapists also recognize the importance of assessing overall fine motor skills beyond just handwriting proficiency. Fine motor skills encompass a range of abilities, including hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and motor planning, which significantly influence students' functional independence in various school-related tasks. That is why I will often pair one of the handwriting tools above with one of the tools below. When I do that, I can draw more conclusions as to whether it is fine motor skills or something else impacting a student's handwriting. Assessment tools such as the Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration (VMI), Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, Second Edition (BOT-2), Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, Second Edition (PDMS-2), and Miller Function & Participation Scales (M-FUN) provide a broader perspective on fine motor development and offer valuable insights into a student's fine motor skills and other skills such as gross motor skills, visual-motor integration, and motor planning abilities. Here is some info on each of those: Miller Function & Participation Scales (M-FUN): Completion time: Approximately 30-45 minutes Age range: 2 years through 7 years 11 months Pros: (Jayson's preferred tool for this age range) Assesses fine motor skills, visual perception, visual-motor integration, and motor planning Provides a comprehensive profile of a child's functional motor abilities Scoring tools that help you guide treatment planning. Cons: Limited age range Longer administration (and set-up) time compared to some other assessment tools The test books and scoring books can get expensive Pro Tip Make lots of copies of the origami fish and dog The pros outweigh the cons, in my opinion Want to hear why I prefer the M-FUN over the BOT-2? Check out this episode of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast! Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, Second Edition (BOT-2): Completion time: Varies depending on the subtests administered Age range: 4 through 21 years Pros: Evaluates fine motor skills along with other motor abilities Provides a comprehensive assessment of fine motor proficiency Cons: Lengthy administration time for the complete test Pro Tips: The recommended minimum interval for reassessment is three months. I typically administer the Fine Motor Precision, Fine Motor Integration, Manual Dexterity, and Bilateral Coordination subtests. The Upper-Limb Coordination subtest can also be helpful at times. Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration (VMI): Completion time: 10-15 minutes Age range: 2 years through adulthood Pros: Assesses the integration of visual and motor skills Provides norm-referenced scores for visual-motor integration abilities Cons: Has been shown to not necessarily correlate with handwriting skills Pro Tip: The VMI is sometimes used by non-OT professionals, so ask your school psychologist if they are using the VMI before you both attend the IEP with the same assessment. Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, Second Edition (PDMS-2): Completion time: Varies depending on the age of the child and the areas being assessed Age range: Birth through 5 years Pros: Assesses fine and gross motor skills Provides a comprehensive assessment of fine motor skills, including grasping, manipulation, and visual-motor integration Offers both standardized scores and age equivalents Cons: Limited to the age range of birth through 5 years Will soon need to upgrade to the Third Edition Pro Tip: Take some time to familiarize yourself with the scoring booklet and tasks. There are many materials, and it takes some time to get used to knowing which task to start with due to the need to find the student's baseline. You've assessed the student. Now what? Sign up for the A-Z School-Based OT Course to help you better understand how to complete an OT evaluation. You'll get access to my evaluation document template to improve your evaluation write-ups! Assessing Beyond Fine Motor Skill While fine motor skills are an essential focus of school-based occupational therapy, it's important to note that occupational therapists address a wide range of areas that contribute to students' overall success and participation in the school environment. While the previously discussed assessment tools provide valuable insights into fine motor development, they do not capture the full scope of an OT's expertise and intervention strategies. Here are a few additional areas in which school-based OTs assess and intervene: Sensory Processing: Evaluating how students perceive and respond to sensory information to develop strategies for managing sensory challenges and promoting engagement in school activities. Self-Care and Independence: Assessing students' ability to perform daily living tasks, such as dressing and grooming, to enhance independence and functional participation. Visual Perception and Visual-Motor Skills: Evaluating how students interpret and use visual information for motor planning and coordination, supporting academic performance. Executive Functioning: Assessing skills related to organization, time management, planning, and self-regulation to address challenges that impact task initiation, focus, time management, and assignment completion. Social-Emotional Skills: Assessing students' social interactions, emotional regulation, self-awareness, and coping strategies to enhance social skills, self-esteem, and emotional well-being, fostering positive relationships and school engagement. By considering these additional areas and employing comprehensive assessment approaches, school-based OT practitioners can address the diverse needs of students and support their holistic development, functional participation, and overall well-being in the school environment. We will soon post blogs about tools you can use to assess these other areas in school-based OT, so stay tuned. The Final Word These fine motor assessment tools are important resources for school-based OT practitioners to evaluate and address students' fine motor skill needs. Using the standardized assessment tools mentioned above, practitioners can obtain valuable information about students' handwriting and fine motor abilities. It is always important to note that standardized assessment tools only give you a snapshot of data in a controlled environment. Always pair standardized assessment tools with observations and other assessment data to form a comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan. What are your preferred fine motor and handwriting assessment tools? Share this post on social media, and let me know which assessment tools you prefer to use when assessing students with fine motor concerns. See ya next time, 👋 Jayson Get my Evaluation Report Template and start feeling confident, knowing you conducted a solid OT evaluation. Sign up for the A-Z School-Based OT Course to help you better understand school-based OT and to create systems to ensure you are giving each student your absolute best. References: Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process—Fourth Edition. Am J Occup Ther August 2020, Vol. 74(Supplement_2), 7412410010p1–7412410010p87. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.74S2001 Sierra Caramia, Amanpreet Gill, Alisha Ohl, David Schelly; Fine Motor Activities in Elementary School Children: A Replication Study. Am J Occup Ther March/April 2020, Vol. 74(2), 7402345010p1–7402345010p7. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.035014
OTS 124: School-Based Benefits of Aquatic Therapy
Click on your preferred podcast player link to listen wherever you enjoy podcasts. Welcome to the show notes for Episode 124 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast. In this podcast episode, Maggie Aschenbrener discusses how she applies her passions for water, children, and occupational therapy by utilizing aquatic therapy in a school-based setting. In addition, she shares valuable insights on the benefits of aquatic therapy, the types of individuals who can benefit from it, and how occupational therapy practitioners can incorporate it into their practice. This podcast episode is a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning about aquatic therapy or incorporating it into their occupational therapy practice. It provides both inspiration and practical guidance on how to make the most of this modality. Listen now to learn the following objectives: Identify key benefits of aquatic therapy for individuals with a variety of conditions. Identify specific populations that could benefit from aquatic therapy. Identify potential opportunities to incorporate aquatic therapy into school-based occupational therapy services. Guest Bio Maggie Aschenbrener, OTR/L, graduated in 2006 with an undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy. She earned her master's degree in OT in 2010. She practiced school-based OT from 2006-2021. In 2021, she began working for Concordia University as their Pediatric Clinical Coordinator in the OT department. She has also practiced at a therapeutic horse ranch doing hippotherapy. She loves sharing her passion for OT with others. Quotes “A student who has difficulty with transitions, difficulty with sensory processing, or difficulty with attention or focus, being in the water can really help them regulate their body so that they can then participate in other activities” - Maggie Aschenbrener, OTR/L “We were working on that participation goal through water, and then generalizing it to the classroom” - Maggie Aschenbrener, OTR/L “Think about that auditory deprivation. There are no sounds underwater, so a lot of our kids with autism just loved to go under the water and just be little fish… because it just cut out the rest of the world” - Maggie Aschenbrener, OTR/L “If people didn't do what they love within the profession, then we wouldn't have things like hippotherapy and sensory integration may not even have come to play” - Jayson Davies, M.A. OTR/L Resources Qualitative Study Article Research on Aquatic Therapy with Children with CP Contact Maggie Thanks for listening to the OT Schoolhouse Podcast. A podcast for school-based OT practitioners! Be sure to subscribe to the OT Schoolhouse email list & get access to our free downloads of Gray-Space paper and the Occupational Profile for school-based OTs. Subscribe now! Thanks for visiting the podcast show notes! If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts Click here to view more episodes of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast
Push-In vs. Pull-Out Services in School-Based OT: Which One is Better?
As occupational therapy practitioners working in schools, we are always searching for the best methods of intervention to provide our students with the highest quality care. One of the most debated topics in school-based OT is the question of whether to implement push-in or pull-out services. However, this question oversimplifies the complex needs of each student and assumes that one approach is superior to the other. In reality, the best approach depends on a variety of factors, such as the student's individual needs, the IEP goals, and the resources available. Today, we will explore the pros and cons of both push-in and pull-out services, discuss the importance of collaboration and flexibility, and highlight the benefits of combining these two methods to create a comprehensive intervention plan. The Fallacy of All-or-Nothing Thinking Before we dive into the pros and cons of push-in and pull-out services, let's take a moment to discuss the all-or-nothing fallacy here. This type of thinking assumes that there is only one right answer and overlooks the potential benefits of multiple solutions. In the case of push-in vs. pull-out services, this fallacy assumes that one method is inherently better than the other. However, the reality is that each method has its own benefits and limitations, and the decision of which one to use should be based on our evaluation, student progress, and the priorities of the IEP team. The Problem with Research When it comes to research in school-based occupational therapy, it's important to be aware of the potential for misleading guides. Studies often use particular inclusion criteria, such as focusing only on general education students or exclusively on autistic children. While these studies can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of particular interventions within specific populations, it's crucial to consider how their findings apply to our own caseload and decision-making processes. For example, if a study only looked at the effectiveness of push-in therapy sessions for students with autism, it may not be applicable to students with other disabilities or those in different educational settings. Similarly, if a study only included general education students, it may not provide insight into the needs and challenges of students in special education programs. Therefore, it's important to carefully read and evaluate research in the context of our own caseload and consider how it may or may not be relevant to our specific situation. There is no question that research can provide useful insights for our practice. However, to be evidence-based, we must also critically evaluate its relevance to our specific caseload and decision-making procedures. By doing so, you can ensure that you are providing the most effective and appropriate interventions for your students. Benefits and Limitations of Push-In Services Push-in services refer to interventions that occur within the student's classroom or natural environment. The primary benefit of push-in services is that they promote developing and generalizing skills in the context where they will be used. Additionally, push-in services can improve collaboration with teachers by providing opportunities for modeling and coaching. However, there are also limitations to push-in services. One of the main limitations is the limited privacy that students have when working in a classroom setting. This is especially important to note as students get older and become more self-aware. Additionally, push-in services can potentially disrupt classroom routines and make it difficult for the student to focus on classroom tasks when there are other distractions in the environment. When it comes to implementing a push-in therapy model, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. First and foremost, it's important to establish clear goals, expectations, and times for the therapy sessions. This can help ensure that everyone involved is on the same page and working towards the same outcomes. It also ensures that the teacher knows when to expect us, and we know what to expect when we go into the classroom. Additionally, it's important to be flexible and adaptable. Unlike in a pull-out session, during push-in sessions, you have limited resources and control over the environment. Finally, it's crucial to communicate regularly and openly with teachers, parents, and other members of the student's support team to ensure that everyone is informed and involved in the therapy process. With these tips in mind, a push-in therapy model can be a highly effective tool for supporting students in reaching their full potential. Benefits and Limitations of Pull-Out Services Pull-out services refer to interventions that occur outside of the student's classroom or natural environment, such as in a therapy room, stage, closet, or hallway (just to name a few). The primary benefit of pull-out services is that they provide a more focused and controlled approach to intervention, allowing the therapist to target specific areas of need that may not be possible while in a classroom. Pull-out sessions may be offered individually or in small groups with students with similar needs. However, there are also limitations to pull-out services. One of the main limitations is that students may feel stigmatized or embarrassed by being pulled out of the classroom. Additionally, pull-out services may provide limited opportunities for generalization, as the student may struggle to transfer skills learned in the therapy room to the classroom setting. We must remember that every moment a student spends in a pull-out therapy session, they miss crucial educational content in their classroom. You and the IEP team must weigh if the pull-out therapy session is worth the missed educational content. Want to learn more about push-in and pull-out services? Sign up for the A-Z School-Based OT Course to help you better understand school-based OT and to create systems to ensure you are giving each student your absolute best. Using a Combined Push-In/Pull-Out Model While push-in and pull-out services both have benefits and limitations, it is important to remember that we are not limited to using one method exclusively. In fact, using a combined push-in/pull-out model can provide the best of both worlds. By using a combined model, you can provide individualized and focused therapy sessions in a quiet and private environment while also promoting generalization by working on skills within the student's natural environment. After years of working in the schools, I found myself recommending and using this type of service model more frequently. For example, I would write on the IEP that the student would be seen twice a month in a pull-out model and twice a month in a push-in model. I then collaborated with the teacher to determine the best time for me to come into the classroom. From there, every week, I switched off where I saw the student - from in the OT room to in the student's classroom. One potential challenge of using a combined push-in/pull-out model like this is that it requires a great deal of flexibility and collaboration with teachers and the IEP team. You must be willing to adjust your approach based on student progress and evolving needs and work closely with teachers to ensure that therapy goals are aligned with the student's academic goals. The Importance of Collaboration and Flexibility Regardless of which service delivery method is used, it is important to prioritize collaboration and flexibility. As school-based occupational therapy practitioners, we are part of a team that includes teachers, administrators, parents, and other service providers. It is important to communicate and collaborate with all members of the team to ensure that therapy goals are aligned with academic goals. We must also be willing to adjust our approach as things change. This may mean shifting from pull-out to push-in services, or vice versa, as well as adjusting therapy goals and interventions based on changing classroom routines or priorities. Remember, an IEP is a living document that can be amended at any time. More than once, I have called a parent to share with them that my plan was not working. We discussed why I thought that was, potential solutions, and how we would move forward with the changes we felt would best support the student. The Wrapup Push-in and pull-out services are both valuable tools for us as school-based OT practitioners. The decision of which method to use should be based on our evaluation, research, experiences, student progress, and the priorities of the IEP team. It is important to remember that neither method is inherently better than the other and that using a combined push-in/pull-out model may provide the best of both worlds. Collaboration and flexibility are key to effective intervention, regardless of which service delivery method is used. By working closely with teachers and the IEP team, we can ensure that therapy goals are aligned with academic goals and that interventions are consistent across school environments. As we strive to provide the best possible support for our students, we must be willing to adapt and adjust our approach based on student progress and evolving needs. See ya next time, 👋 Jayson Learn more about when to choose push-in and pull-out services. Sign up for the A-Z School-Based OT Course to help you better understand school-based OT and to create systems to ensure you are giving each student your absolute best.
OTS 123 - Incorporating Movement and Sensory in the Classroom
Click on your preferred podcast player link to listen wherever you enjoy podcasts. Welcome to the show notes for Episode 123 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast. Ready to talk All Things Sensory? In this episode of the OT Schoolhouse podcast, Jayson interviews Rachel Harrington, COTA/L AC, and Jessica Hill, COTA/L, about incorporating movement and sensory activities in the classroom and at home. We discuss sensory diets, fidgets, primitive reflexes, and other strategies for supporting children with sensory needs. Jessica and Rachel also share practical tips for teachers, parents, and caregivers on how to create a sensory-friendly environment and promote self-regulation. Tune in to learn more! Listen now to learn the following objectives: Learn how sensory diets can help children regulate their sensory input throughout the day. Learn how fidgets can be a helpful tool for children who need to move or have tactile stimulation. Identify how primitive reflexes can impact a child's development and should be addressed through movement activities. Learn how you can help teachers to incorporate movement breaks into their lessons to help students stay focused. Resources: The All Things Sensory Podcast Harkla.co The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz (Affiliate link) Primitive Reflex Integration Course by Rachel Harrington Impactful Quotes From the Episode "Kids need to move more. So we always recommend that if they are sitting in the classroom or sitting down for a focus task for 30 minutes, then after 30 minutes, they get up and move for between five and fifteen minutes" -Jessica Hill, COTA/L "We like to teach practitioners and teachers and parents to incorporate these functional movements, that not only wake up the brain and facilitate that sensory break, but they're also rhythmic, and they're also beneficial for working towards integrating those reflexes" -Rachel Harrington, COTA/L AC “When it comes to educating our teachers, we need to recognize the limited time that they have, and they just want the strategies that they can use right now” -Jayson Davies, M.A, OTR/L "75% of a classroom has retained primitive reflexes" -Rachel Harrington, COTA/L AC "We're all sensory beings, and so all students can benefit from these sensory activities that the therapists are providing to the teachers, and so just teaching them how to do it with the entire class is important" -Jessica Hill, COTA/L Guest Bio Rachel Harrington and Jessica Hill are Harkla's in-house Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA). They have worked with children for over seven years in outpatient pediatric settings. They specialize in sensory integration, primitive reflexes, teaching regulation strategies, and child development. They are the hosts of the All Things Sensory Podcast and have created several digital courses for parents, therapists, and educators. Thanks for listening to the OT Schoolhouse Podcast! Be sure to subscribe to the OT Schoolhouse email list & get access to our free downloads of Gray-Space paper and the Occupational Profile for school-based OTs. Subscribe now! Thanks for visiting the podcast show notes! If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts Click here to view more episodes of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast
OTS 122: YOUR QUESTIONS, JAYSON'S ANSWERS
Click on your preferred podcast player link to listen wherever you enjoy podcasts. Welcome to the show notes for Episode 122 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast. Welcome to a special episode of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast, where we celebrate OT Month and the anniversary of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast! We're excited to bring you an episode packed with valuable insights as Jayson answers questions submitted by our listeners. Tune in as we cover various topics related to OT, such as creative contests for school-aged students, strategies to help parents prepare for changes in their child's OT services, sensory checklists, and tips for becoming a more confident OT practitioner. We'd like to extend a big thank you to all those who submitted their questions and helped make this episode possible. So sit back, relax, and let's dive in! Listen now to learn the following objectives: Learners will identify how to help build confidence as a new practitioner Learners will identify strategies to help parents prepare for dismissal from OT services Learners will identify how to utilize The Sensational Brain Sensory Checklist with a general Ed classroom Guest Bio In 2017, Jayson founded the OT Schoolhouse website and now supports school-based OT practitioners via courses, conferences, and the OTS Collaborative community. With experience as both a contracted therapist and an "in-house" employee for two distinctly different districts, Jayson has had the opportunity to appreciate the differences between both small-rural and large-suburban districts. Recently, Jayson has put forth his efforts toward supporting therapists interested in tiered intervention, collaborative programming, and managing their workloads. Quotes “Start with one student and one teacher and build from there - find a student who is mastering skills in the OT room but needs to generalize” - Jayson Davies, M.A. OTR/L “Don't fake it till you make it. Instead, believe it till you achieve it” -Jayson Davies, M.A. OTR/L “If you have a student focusing on handwriting, try to find a way to incorporate daily support…even a 5 minutes check-in could have better outcomes” -Jayson Davies, M.A. OTR/L Resources The Sensational Brain Sensory Checklist Effects of Weighted Vests on the Engagement of Children With Developmental Delays and Autism Systematic Review- ADHD & Autism Efficacy of Weighted Vests Choosing wisely- AOTA List- Sensory-Based Intervention STAR for School Course OT Schoolhouse Podcast Episode 26 Article on Self Regulation & ACEs Handwriting and Beyond in School-Based OT Podcast Episode Challenging Typical Handwriting Traditions Podcast Episode Thanks for listening to the OT Schoolhouse Podcast! Be sure to subscribe to the OT Schoolhouse email list & get access to our free downloads of Gray-Space paper and the Occupational Profile for school-based OTs. Subscribe now! Thanks for visiting the podcast show notes! If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts Click here to view more episodes of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast
How School-Based OT Practitioners Can Create a Holistic Plan to Address Student Behavioral Concerns
Introduction As school-based occupational therapy practitioners (OTPs), we are often asked to support teachers in addressing sensory concerns. The teachers sometimes do not know how sensory is impacting the student. But they know the student likes certain toys, seeks out sensory stimuli, and will sometimes have "behaviors" without an apparent cause. Unfortunately, for the past decade (or more), teachers, ABA therapists, other professionals, and yes - even OTPs - have been seeking to weed out what is sensory and what is behavior. I have yet to run across a therapist who can explain "sensory vs. behavior" well. And I think I know why - because deep down, we know that sensory processing always has an impact on behavior. Just as our behavior always has an impact on our sensory systems. So, the traditional approach of attempting to separate sensory and behavior may not be the most effective. In this blog post, we will explore why sensory vs. behavior thinking is a fallacy and how school-based OT practitioners can create a holistic plan to address student behavioral concerns. The Limitations of Sensory vs. Behavior Thinking Sensory vs. behavior thinking is a common approach in many OT courses, but it is a fallacy. While it may be helpful to identify the differences between sensory processing and behavior, it is important to remember that sensory always impacts behavior to some extent. Focusing solely on behavior without addressing the sensory component may lead us to miss how sensory stimuli have a unique impact on the student. For example, a student who has difficulty with auditory processing may become easily overwhelmed and agitated in a noisy classroom environment. This may lead to behaviors such as avoidance, agitation, or acting out. If we only focus on addressing the behavior without addressing the underlying sensory component, we may miss the opportunity to create a more supportive environment that meets the student's needs. Using ABC (antecedent, behavior, consequence) data and committing to address the sensory components to assess our student, we may identify the following: Antecedent - The student is given a writing assignment Behavior - Student acts out and refuses to complete the assignment Consequence - The student is told to calm down. Recess is taken. And now, the student has to complete the assignment for homework. But what if the antecedent was actually the noisy classroom or the inability to hear the teacher's instructions? Or something completely unrelated to the writing assignment or the student's auditory processing difficulty. That is why believe that it is irresponsible for us to separate sensory from behavior. The Holistic Approach to Addressing Student Behavior To create a comprehensive plan to address student behavioral concerns, we can use the Person-Environment-Occupation (PEO) model. This model helps us to evaluate the causes of behaviors through observations and assessment to look not only at the individual but also everything around the individual. With the PEO model, we can address the student's preferences, abilities, struggles, and more. Then we can address the environment (including the classroom dynamics - such as personnel) and the expectations for the student in the classroom. Using this model, we may identify any single, or combination of PEO factors that could be the "antecedent" of a behavior. By addressing the interwoven interactions of person, environment, and occupation, we can create a plan that meets the student's unique needs and supports their success in the classroom. Here are some practical tips and strategies for implementing a holistic approach to addressing student behavior: Understand the student's sensory processing needs: Conduct assessments and observations to gain a better understanding of how the student processes sensory information. This may include auditory, visual, tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive processing. Once you have a better understanding of the student's sensory processing needs AND behavioral concerns, you can work with the teacher and other school staff to create a more supportive environment. Collaborate with the teacher and other school staff: Creating a plan to address student behavior requires collaboration and communication with the teacher and other school staff. Together, you can identify the student's strengths, preferences, and challenges, as well as the environmental factors that may impact their behavior. By working together, you can create, implement, and collect data on a plan that meets the student's unique needs and supports their success in the classroom. Use a variety of strategies and interventions: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing student behavior. Instead, use a variety of strategies and interventions to create a comprehensive plan. This may include environmental modifications, sensory integration strategies, behavioral interventions, and social-emotional learning programs. By using a variety of strategies, you can address the underlying causes of behavior and create a supportive environment for the student. Benefits of Holistic Approach to Addressing Student Behavior A holistic approach to addressing student behavior has several benefits. One of the most significant benefits is that it allows school-based OT practitioners to address the underlying causes of behavior rather than just treating the symptoms. By focusing on the whole child and evaluating their physical, emotional, and social needs, OT practitioners can develop more effective intervention plans to help students develop the skills they need to manage their own behavior, rather than relying on external consequences. In addition, a holistic approach can lead to better outcomes for students. By addressing the sensory component of behavior, OT practitioners can create a more supportive environment that allows students to thrive. This approach can also help to promote positive behavior and reduce the likelihood of negative behaviors occurring in the future. Examples of how a holistic approach can lead to better outcomes for students include: A student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may struggle with staying focused and completing tasks. By addressing the sensory component of their behavior, such as providing a structured and organized environment and using visual aids, the student may be better able to manage their attention and complete tasks more effectively. An autistic student may struggle with processing sensory stimuli in a busy classroom environment. By providing support to the teacher to reduce stimuli in the classroom, the student may be better able to regulate their behavior and engage more fully in learning activities. Proactive and Reactive Sensory Strategies When it comes to supporting student behavior through sensory means. I like to use both proactive and reactive strategies to support students' sensory needs. Proactive sensory strategies may include modifying the classroom environment to minimize sensory overload or providing sensory input that is calming or organizing for the student. For example, you may suggest using a compression vest or offering a quiet space for a student to take breaks before an activity that sometimes leads to the student feeling overwhelmed. These strategies can help prevent sensory overload and reduce the likelihood of behaviors that limit participation. Reactive sensory strategies may include providing sensory input in response to a student's needs. For example, a student who is becoming dysregulated may benefit from deep breathing exercises, heavy work activities, or repetitive actions. By providing appropriate sensory input in the moment, the therapist or teacher can help the student regulate their arousal level and return to a state of optimal functioning. Something I created and use for my students to address reactive strategies is a Personalized Sensory Plan. If you're interested in developing an Individualized Sensory Program for your students, I've created a free template that you can use as a starting point. Simply insert your info below to download your free template today! By using both proactive and reactive sensory strategies, school-based occupational therapists can support students' sensory needs in a comprehensive and individualized way. This can lead to better outcomes such as improved attention and participation in classroom activities, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved self-regulation skills. Get your free copy of our Individualized Sensory Program Template to use with your students Individualize this Google Document to meet the needs of your students. Enter your info below to grab this free resource! Challenges and Pitfalls of Holistic Approach to Addressing Student Behavior While there are many benefits to taking a holistic approach to addressing student behavior, there are also some challenges and potential pitfalls to consider. One challenge is that addressing one area of life may impact another area - for better or for worse. For example, making changes to a student's environment may have unintended consequences for their social interactions. It is important to always take data and adjust plans accordingly. Another challenge is that taking a holistic approach requires collaboration and communication among all members of the student's support team. This can be difficult to achieve in a busy school setting where teachers, OT practitioners, and other support staff may have different schedules and priorities. To overcome this challenge, it is important to establish clear lines of communication and set regular meetings to discuss student progress and intervention plans. Conclusion In conclusion, taking a holistic approach to address student behavior is essential for promoting positive outcomes for students. By using the PEO model and other holistic approaches, school-based OT practitioners can evaluate the causes of behavior through observation and assessment tools, create a comprehensive plan that does not rely on limited ABC data, and address the student's personal factors, the environment, and the occupational demands of the classroom. So, the next time behaviors are being addressed in an IEP or staff meeting, raise your hand or your voice and share with your staff how you can support them and their students. You got this! Thanks for reading all the way to the end of this post. I hope you found it helpful in your practice. If you did, be sure to subscribe to our email list, where we send out helpful tips for school-based OT practitioners every week! See ya next time, 👋 Jayson Want to further your understanding of how Sensory & Behaviors are connected? Join us at the Back to School Conference this year, where Greg Santucci, MS, OTR, will be discussing the interconnectedness of the two & how OTPs can support students on campus. Click here to learn more about the Back to School Conference! I hope to see you there! The OT schoolhouse is proud to be an AOTA Approved Provider of professional development.
OTS 121: Choose Wisely: Linking Motor Reflex Integration to Occupation
Click on your preferred podcast player link to listen wherever you enjoy podcasts. Welcome to the show notes for Episode 121 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast. Do you ever wonder how much our early reflexes impact our physical, cognitive, and emotional development? What about the importance of reflex integration and rhythmic movements in shaping these abilities? In this episode, Sonia Story sheds light on these intriguing connections and explains why reflex integration is critical for a child's growth and development. Get ready to rethink the role of reflexes and discover the fascinating world of neurological soft signs and sensory integration. Listen now to learn the following objectives: Learners will identify neurological soft signs and what happens when they are inhibited Learners will identify how sensory integration and retained reflexes are connected Learners will identify why reflex integration is such a fundamental foundational system of movements Guest(s) Bio Sonia Story earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a combined major in biology and psychology. She studied two bodywork systems—Orthobionomy and Hanna Somatics—which influenced her later application of neurodevelopmental movement tools. Sonia extensively studied innate neurodevelopmental movements with Harald Blomberg, MD; Moira Dempsey; Svetlana Masgutova; Mary Kawar, OT; and other instructors. While earning certifications to teach Rhythmic Movement Training (RMTi) and other movement courses, Sonia maintained a private practice effectively using these tools—first to overcome her own challenges with sensory issues and anxiety—then for helping individuals of all ages. The majority of Sonia’s clients are school-age children. Sonia Story taught the RMTi curriculum for 10 years and has been teaching the Brain and Sensory Foundations curriculum since 2008. Quotes “The more you know about the stimulus and the motor response, the more you can see that reflexes could be hindering functional skills” -Sonia Story “Reflex integration as a modality is basically trying to boost, innate development through, using the patterns and the ways that nature itself has designed human beings to develop” - Sonia Story “There are very compelling studies showing that, when we give the tools for reflex integration, we boost function and occupational functions” Sonia Story “It's also about going through the scientific steps to see if what we are doing is working with our clients. And… at the end of the plan, we are able to say, this created occupational outcomes, then we have created data for our program” Jayson Davies, M.A., OTR/L “There is a sensory component that is stimulating the reflex” Jayson Davies, M.A., OTR/L Resources (Affiliate links) Episode streamed on Youtube E-Book Unintegrated Infant Reflexes Chart Brain & Sensory Foundation Course - Use discount code: OTSH30OFF by April 30, 2023 Thanks for listening to the OT Schoolhouse Podcast! Be sure to subscribe to the OT Schoolhouse email list & get access to our free downloads of Gray-Space paper and the Occupational Profile for school-based OTs. Subscribe now! Thanks for visiting the podcast show notes! If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts Click here to view more episodes of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast
OTS 120 - The Role SLPs Play in Schools
Click on your preferred podcast player link to listen wherever you enjoy podcasts. Welcome to the show notes for Episode 120 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast. Are you an OT who wants to level up your knowledge on how to work collaboratively with SLPs to support students in school? Well, you're in for a treat! Today's episode features a special guest, Rose, a school-based speech therapist and Founder of ABA SPEECH. She will share her wisdom on the important role that SLPs play in schools and how OTPs can collaborate with SLPs to provide the best possible support for students. Tune in to learn more! Listen now to learn the following objectives: Learners will identify what the role of an SLP in a school setting is Learners will identify what the SETT framework is Learners will identify what the communication matrix assessment is and how OTs can utilize it Learners will identify how to work with the SLPs at your school to best support the students Resources: ABA Speech -Rose Website Rose -Instagram Rose -Tiktok Communication Matrix SETT Framework Impactful Quotes From the Episode “There might be ways that you can collaborate and make your life easier, and maybe the speech therapist is this wealth of information.” - Rose Griffin, CCC/SLP, BCBA “Having some type of social connectedness is going to help you as an adult when you have a job. And so being able to practice those skills in a smaller environment, I think is very impactful for our students” - Rose Griffin, CCC/SLP, BCBA “The IEP is a living document, and things can change. We make our best estimate of what is going to support that student right now, with the information that we have” - Jayson Davies, MA, OTR/L Guest Bio Rosemarie Griffin, MA, CCC/SLP, BCBA, is an ASHA-certified Speech-Language Pathologist, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and Product Developer. She is the founder of ABA SPEECH. She is passionate about helping individuals with autism find their voice and become more independent communicators. Rose is the host of the Autism Outreach podcast and is a sought-after speaker. Her mission is to help all autistic learners find their voice. She does this by providing CEU courses, therapy materials, and free resources for parents and professionals alike. Thanks for listening to the OT Schoolhouse Podcast! Be sure to subscribe to the OT Schoolhouse email list & get access to our free downloads of Gray-Space paper and the Occupational Profile for school-based OTs. Subscribe now! Thanks for visiting the podcast show notes! If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts Click here to view more episodes of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast
Determining an Appropriate Service Frequency for School-Based Occupational Therapy: A Guide for OTPs
Welcome to the final post in our three-part series on developing present levels, goals, accommodations, and determining service frequency. In our previous posts, we discussed the importance of writing effective Present Levels of Performance (PLOPs) and using them to develop effective accommodations and therapy goals for our students. In this post, we will focus on using those PLOPs, accommodations, and therapy goals to determine an appropriate occupational therapy service frequency for each student. Occupational therapy service frequency refers to how often a student receives occupational therapy services, and it's a critical factor in ensuring that students receive the support they need to achieve their goals. We'll provide practical tips and an exercise you can use for determining an appropriate occupational therapy service frequency for each student based on their unique needs and goals. By the end of this post, you'll have a clear understanding of how to use PLOPs, accommodations, and therapy goals to determine an appropriate occupational therapy service frequency for each student, which will help ensure that they receive the support they need to succeed. So let's dive in and learn how to determine the appropriate occupational therapy service frequency for your students! Part Three: Frequency of Services One of the most challenging parts of being a school-based OT is deciding the frequency at which we should see a student. As much as we want to make the determination of service frequency a black-and-white process by using a magic calculator or formula, this process is very subjective and complex. One goal does not equal once-a-month consults, and having three IEP goals does not automatically mean a student requires weekly services. With that said, more complex goals may warrant more frequent therapy sessions. There are many factors to consider, such as: How many goals does the student have? How old is the student? Who is the teachers, and can I collaborate with them? Will there be carryover from the team? And more... And we are just talking about frequency, not where the service will take place or what tools we will use during therapy. I have found the best way to determine the frequency for each student is to use the student's Present Levels of Performance (PLOPs), accommodations and modifications, and therapy goals as a guide. In the last email, I shared how we can use the PLOPs to lead to goals and accommodations, so we will start there in this email. Remember, areas of concern often lead to goals, while areas of strength may lead you to think of some reasonable accommodations to support those goals. Once you have your goals and accommodations in place, it is time to determine how you will implement the accommodations and support the student in reaching the goals. Starting with the accommodations, ask yourself these questions: How complex is the accommodation to learn? Who will I need to train in the use of the accommodations? Will you train the teacher, and the teacher teaches the student? Or will you have to train everyone? Will you have to order the tool? How will you know when training is no longer needed, and the tool is being used adequately? Based on the answers to these questions, you may only need to meet with the teacher once a month to implement the tool. Or you may need to see the teacher and student every week for several weeks. Want to learn more about developing strong present levels, goals, and services? Sign up for the A-Z School-Based OT Course to help you better understand school-based OT and to create systems to ensure you are giving each student your absolute best. Goals to Services Moving on to services, it gets more tricky - especially if you do not yet know the student well. Every child develops uniquely and learning what they can accomplish in what time frame takes time. Ideally, we are supposed to determine services in a way that keeps the student in their educational environment as much as possible while also making "meaningful progress" (as referenced in many court cases) toward the student's IEP goals. We may be experts in child development, but we aren't Tarot Card reads. We can't predict what the student will accomplish one year from today. At least, I can't. So when it comes to determining services, this is the exercise I use. Feel free to use it for yourself. I ask myself a series of questions starting with the least restrictive service frequency. Is the student likely to meet their goals (or make meaningful progress toward their goals) if I meet with them or their teacher only once a month? If so, that is where I start - with a once-a-month service or consult. But if not, I ask: Is the student likely to meet their goals (or make meaningful progress toward them) if I meet with them or their teacher twice a month? If not... Is the student likely to meet their goals (or make meaningful progress toward their goals) if I meet with them or their teacher 3 or 4 times a month? Three questions. That's not too bad, yeah? From there, if the answer is still "No, I do not think the child will meet the goals with services once a week." Then there are a few things you can do. Before asking if twice a week is required (don't scream at me, I know you don't even want to hear that... well, most of you), first ask if just one additional consult a month would make a difference. I have found that when I see a student weekly, some things don't carry over into the classroom. But good things seem to happen when I add one consult a month to my weekly services. So, maybe start there. You may also ask yourself if the goals you and the IEP team are putting in place are over the top - either in their quantity or in the student's ability range. When a single service provider has more than three goals they are responsible for, I find that they don't always get worked on. There are always other goals to work on, but the IEP team must determine what is most important this year. It's okay to say to the IEP team, "I was considering a goal to _____, but the goal I wrote is most important now. Maybe next year we can focus on _____." I know we did not dive into the topics of consult vs. collaboration and how long sessions should be. We can do that another time. Or, if you'd like to learn more about that and more with me right now, check out my course - A-Z School-Based OT Course. The A-Z School-Based OT Course is perfect for you if you're headed into a position as a school-based OT practitioner or if you have been there awhile and feel like you need some support being the confident therapist you want to be. I've supported nearly 1000 OT practitioners via this course and would love to help you, as well. See ya next time, 👋 Jayson Learn more about developing strong present levels, goals, and services. Sign up for the A-Z School-Based OT Course to help you better understand school-based OT and to create systems to ensure you are giving each student your absolute best.
Using your PLOPs to Develop Effective Student Accommodations & Goals
Welcome to the second post in our three-part series on effective school-based occupational therapy. In our previous post, we discussed the importance of writing effective Present Levels of Performance (PLOPs) for each student we work with, and how they can be used to guide the development of individualized education programs (IEPs). In this post, we will focus on using PLOPs to develop effective accommodations and therapy goals for our students. Accommodations are changes to the learning environment or materials that help students access the curriculum and demonstrate their knowledge, while therapy goals are specific objectives that the student will work on with the occupational therapist to improve their skills and abilities. We'll provide practical tips and examples for developing accommodations and therapy goals that are individualized, measurable, and relevant to each student's needs. By the end of this post, you'll have a clear understanding of how to use PLOPs to guide the development of effective accommodations and therapy goals, which will help you to help your students succeed in the classroom and beyond. So let's dive in! Part Two: Accommodations & Goals I like to say the student's strengths lead to accommodations, while the areas of concern can lead to goals. For example, we have a few potential options if a student struggles with producing legible writing but excels in verbal communication. From a goal standpoint, we could recommend something along the lines of the student producing more legible written language. Or we could introduce typing and write a goal for that. Alternatively (or in tandem with a goal from above), we could recommend that the team allow the student to record his responses verbally or use a speech-to-text system to complete academic tasks. My preference is to implement a combination of these options. There is no reason to prevent this student from accessing his curriculum in the short term because it will take time to meet the legibility goal. To prevent that situation, we can put accommodations in place so the student can continue progressing academically while we work on the area of concern. When making such recommendations, it is important to consider the student's environment and how it may impact their ability to access the curriculum. For example, if the student is going to respond to questions verbally, the team must factor in what this may look like during a test when the expectation is to remain quiet. Will the student be assessed separately, or is there another way the student's learning could be assessed while eliminating the task demand of writing? You might have to get creative. Want to learn more about developing proven present levels, goals, and services? Sign up for the A-Z School-Based OT Course to help you better understand school-based OT and to create systems to ensure you are giving each student your absolute best. Remember that the IEP is a team effort. Collaborate with other members of the team, such as the student's teacher, to ensure that your recommendations are appropriate and feasible within the classroom setting. Working with the IEP team can lead to more effective and comprehensive recommendations. When setting therapy goals, use data from the PLOPs and other assessments to ensure that the goals are specific, measurable, and achievable. By using data to inform goals, you can make sure that the goals are appropriately challenging and that progress can be accurately measured. You can learn more about smart goals in this blog post or this episode of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast. By following these tips, you can effectively use the PLOPs to inform recommendations for accommodations and therapy goals that will help the student succeed in the classroom. Remember to approach this process from a strengths-based perspective and collaborate with the IEP team to ensure the student receives the support they need to succeed. Next time, we will talk about how to decide what your services should look like based on the goals and recommendations you developed. See you next time, 👋 Jayson PS - Did you miss the first article in this series? Click here to learn more about writing your PLOPs. Learn more about developing strong present levels, goals, and services. Sign up for the A-Z School-Based OT Course to help you better understand school-based OT and to create systems to ensure you are giving each student your absolute best.
How to Write Effective School-Based Occupational Therapy Present Levels of Performance (PLOPs)
Welcome to the first post in our three-part series on effective school-based occupational therapy. As school-based occupational therapy practitioners, one of our most important responsibilities is to develop Present Levels of Performance (PLOPs) for each student we work with. The PLOPs provide a snapshot of the student's current skills, abilities, and challenges, and are used to guide the development of individualized education programs (IEPs) for each student. In this post, we will focus on the importance of writing effective PLOPs, and provide practical tips for doing so. We'll also discuss how PLOPs can be used to develop effective accommodations and therapy goals, which will be the focus of our second post. In our final post, we'll discuss how to determine an appropriate service frequency for school-based occupational therapy, using PLOPs and therapy goals as a guide. By the end of this three-part series, you'll have a clear understanding of how to use PLOPs to guide effective occupational therapy services in the school setting. So let's get started! Part one: The PLOPs The present levels of performance section is a substantial piece of every Individualized Education Program (IEP). The PLOPs are the foundation of an IEP, and they provide the team with a clear and comprehensive description of the student's current abilities, needs, and challenges. With a good set of PLOPs, the rest of the IEP often flows with ease. However, with a poor and unclear set of PLOPs, the IEP team may struggle to create meaningful goals for the student, misidentify appropriate modifications and accommodations, and over (or under) recommend service frequencies. So, how can you be sure to set a proper baseline for the student's performance that will guide the development of appropriate goals and objectives? Using a strength-based approach to the PLOPs, we can focus on the student's strengths and abilities while still providing a comprehensive picture of their needs and challenges. Here are some ways you can keep the PLOPs strengths-based and still provide value to the IEP team: Use positive and descriptive language: Use positive and descriptive language to highlight the student's strengths and abilities. For example, instead of saying "the student struggles with fine motor skills," say "the student demonstrates strength in gross motor skills during PE and at recess and is working to improve fine motor skills to allow for increased independence in completing writing assignments." Emphasize what the student can do: Focus on what the student can do, rather than what they cannot do. This approach reinforces a positive self-image for the student, and encourages them to continue to build on their strengths. It also gives the parents the opportunity to hear what wonderful things their child is doing. The IEP does not need to be traumatizing for the parents. Include the student's interests and preferences: Incorporate the student's interests and preferences into the PLOP section, and identify how these strengths can be used to support their academic and functional goals. Highlight progress and achievements: Include information about the student's progress and achievements, and celebrate their successes. This reinforces a strengths-based approach and encourages the student to continue to build on their progress. Include the Data: Just because we are using a strengths-based approach doesn't mean you can omit the data. Share data points that show the progression the student has made. If the data doesn't show progression, what can be gathered from that? Collaborate with the student, teachers, and the family: Involve the teachers, student, and their family in the development of the PLOP section, and ask for their input regarding the student's strengths and needs. The IEP is a collaborative document, and it is beneficial to include the family's beliefs, opinions, and observations in the document. Here is an example of a PLOPs section using these guidelines: Brad is a bright and enthusiastic 2nd grade student who demonstrates strengths in reading and physical activity. He has a learning disorder and requires support to achieve his academic and functional goals. Brad loves reading, and he excels at citing text from a story. However, he struggles with writing and requires assistance documenting his ideas. Brad is an active and engaged learner, but has difficulty attending to his teacher for extended periods of time.
During recess, Brad struggles to engage with his peers and requires support to initiate play. However, he is very physically active and enjoys running and playing games. Brad is highly motivated by his interest in Pokemon, and this can be used to engage him in therapy activities. He engages better in play with peers when there is structure. Brads parents have noted to observe this as well at church and at the park.
Last year, Brad had a goal to independently write a three-sentence summary after reading a short story. He has achieved this goal with support, using a worksheet that prompts Brad to write three important points about the story. When he writes out his points, his teacher sometimes struggles to read what he has written, which impacts his ability to demonstrate his comprehension of the story.
Overall, Brad is a hard-working and motivated student who benefits from strengths-based support focusing on his interests and abilities. By building on his strengths and providing appropriate support, Brad can continue to make progress toward his academic and functional goals. This is an example of a PLOP in an IEP where the OT practitioner is provided a space to write a narrative section of their own. In some IEP programs, you may need to split this up into various areas. You may add pieces of it under the fine motor, sensory processing, behavior, and daily living sections. There may be other sections that you can add to as well. No one section is only for one individual provider. Completing the PLOPs is the first step in the IEP process for related services providers, and they create the baseline for the rest of the IEP. If you think of an IEP as a story, the PLOPs is the first chapter. It sets the scene, introduces the main character, and even alludes to what may be coming in the next few chapters. If you read the PLOP above carefully, you may just see where I may be headed with the goals and services I plan to recommend. That story is by design. It helps parents, other team members, and potentially even advocates see how to link the PLOPS to the goals, accommodations, and services. Click here to check out the next article in this three-part series on developing strong present levels, goals and accommodations, and service recommendations. See ya next time, 👋 Jayson Want to learn more about developing strong present levels, goals, and services? Sign up for the A-Z School-Based OT Course to help you better understand school-based OT and to create systems to ensure you are giving each student your absolute best.