As the holiday season approaches, I think now is the perfect time to pause and reflect on the many reasons we, as school-based OT practitioners, have to be thankful. While there's no doubt that our profession can be demanding and challenging at times, there's also a wealth of fulfillment that comes with being a school-based OT practitioner.
I figured I would keep it lighthearted today as I share ten reasons why we, as school-based OT practitioners, should feel an extra dose of gratitude during the holiday season. As my dad likes to say at the Thanksgiving table, "There's always something to be thankful for." So, let's look at some of the things we can be thankful for every day.
Seeing Students in Their Natural Environment
One of the most beautiful aspects of our role is the opportunity to work with students in their natural environment—the school. We get to observe, evaluate, and provide treatment to students where they spend most of their day, allowing us to truly understand their challenges and progress on a deeper level. It's a privilege we should cherish.
Our daily interactions with students in the busy hallways, lively classrooms, and on the playground provide invaluable insights that go beyond what can be gleaned from a clinical setting. We witness not only their academic struggles but also their social interactions, sensory sensitivities, and emotional highs and lows where it matters most to them. This depth of understanding allows us to tailor our interventions to their unique needs and foster progress that matters to each student.
Supporting More Than Just Students
While our primary focus is on our students, our impact often reaches much further. We have the unique privilege of supporting teachers, aides, and other school staff in creating inclusive and effective learning environments. Displaying our expertise in fine and gross motor skills, sensory integration, and executive functioning in the classroom benefits all educators striving to meet the diverse needs of their students.
Collaborating with teachers to implement strategies that make learning accessible to all is such a rewarding aspect of what we do. Whether we're recommending a shift in the classroom seating to accommodate sensory sensitivities or providing recommendations for inclusive physical education activities, we contribute to the overall success of the school community. Our ability to support not only our students but also the educators who work tirelessly to provide quality education is indeed something to be thankful for.
Empowering Entire Classrooms
Our influence doesn't stop at individual students; it often extends to positively impact entire classrooms and sometimes even entire schools. The strategies we implement can enhance classroom dynamics, routines, and accessibility, benefitting every student.
Through RTI strategies, we can help set up sensory-friendly classroom spaces, provide guidance on efficient classroom organization, and contribute to the creation of an educational environment where all students can thrive. This ripple effect on the entire school community is a testament to the holistic impact we can have and a reason to be profoundly thankful.
Enjoying Extended Holiday Breaks
Yep, It had to be said. We enjoy a perk that many envy—extended holiday breaks that align with the academic calendar. Lucky for us, these breaks offer a well-deserved chance to recharge, spend quality time with loved ones, and return to our duties with renewed energy and enthusiasm. I hope you are enjoying a holiday break of your own as you read along today.
Never a Dull Day
While you may not be able to count on being invited to the IEP as the school OT, one thing is for sure - it's anything but dull. Our work is dynamic, diverse, and ever-evolving. Each day brings new challenges, new faces, and new opportunities for growth and learning.
From conducting assessments to collaborating with colleagues and providing direct services to students, there is a constant flow of activity. We are problem solvers, adaptors, and educators, and our diverse responsibilities keep our profession exciting and dynamic. Embracing the unpredictability of each day and the learning that comes with it is something to be thankful for.
Serving Students Who May Not Otherwise Have Access to OT
This is one that I hold near and dear.
In our role, we often have the privilege of reaching students who might not have access to occupational therapy services elsewhere. This is especially true for students from underserved communities, in rural areas, or those with limited resources.
Knowing that our early interventions can be life-changing for these children is a source of immense pride and gratitude. We have the opportunity to bridge gaps in access to essential services, ensuring that all students, regardless of their circumstances, have equal opportunities to succeed. It's a reminder of the profound impact our work can have on the lives of those we serve.
Contributing to Inclusive Education
You can't spell inclusion without OT… Wait, you can???
I get confused at times because OT practitioners always seem to be at the center of advocating for and implementing inclusive practices!
Whether we are recommending collaborative services to the IEP team or providing education to the teachers and staff we support, we always seem to have inclusion in mind.
By advocating for inclusive practices and supporting educators in their efforts, we foster an environment where students with various abilities learn side by side, benefiting from shared experiences and opportunities. The dedication to making inclusive education a reality is indeed something to be celebrated and thankful for.
Variety of Students
One fascinating aspect of our profession that keeps us engaged and continually learning is the wide variety of students we encounter. Each student is unique, presenting their own set of challenges and opportunities for growth.
From working with a child with sensory processing difficulties to helping another improve their fine motor skills or learn to use assistive technology, this diversity keeps our work intellectually stimulating. We constantly have to expand our knowledge and hone our skills to meet the unique needs of each student.
This variety not only keeps us on our toes but also reinforces our ability to think critically, adapt to different situations, and apply our expertise in creative ways. It's an ongoing learning journey that enriches our professional lives and gives us reason to be thankful for the constant growth it offers.
Witnessing Progress and Milestones
Few experiences in our profession are as rewarding as witnessing the progress and milestones achieved by our students. It's in these moments that the true impact of our interventions becomes evident.
Whether it's a child mastering the letters in their name, improving their ability to follow along in art class, or gaining confidence in their social interactions, these milestones are a testament to our dedication and expertise. We fortunate to be able to share these moments with the students we serve, and that's something to be thankful for.
Advocating for Students
Like inclusion, advocacy is woven into the fabric of our role as school-based OT practitioners. Maybe it's because we always have to advocate for ourselves. But for whatever reason, every OTP I know tirelessly advocates for the unique needs of their students, ensuring they are recognized and supported within the educational system.
We also know how important it is for students to be able to advocate for themselves. If there is an advocacy goal on a student's IEP, I'd be willing to bet it was the OT who wrote it. It's just something we always consider in helping our students achieve.
Our advocacy also extends to fostering strong partnerships with parents, caregivers, and other professionals. Our ability to effectively communicate the needs of our students and collaborate with various stakeholders is a cornerstone of our profession. It's a reminder of our role as advocates, educators, and catalysts for positive change in the lives of our students.
As we head into the holiday season, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the multitude of reasons you have to be thankful for in your role as a school-based OT practitioner. We have a pretty unique and rather fantastic job filled with diversity, dynamism, and meaningful moments.
Our ability to see students in their natural environment, support not only students but also teachers and staff, empower entire classrooms, enjoy extended holiday breaks, embrace the dynamic nature of our work, and serve students who may not otherwise have access to OT is a testament to the uniqueness of our role.
So, as we gather with friends, family, and our other favorite people, let's remember the profound impact we have on the lives of our students and the countless reasons we have to be thankful as school-based OT practitioners during this holiday season.
Plus, you can use these as examples when you have to explain to your Uncle Bob what you do as a school-based OT practitioner for the tenth time. 😉
Enjoy your break,