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OTS 91: What the Every Student Succeeds Act means for OTPs with Abe Saffer, MPM


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Welcome to the show notes for Episode 91 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast.


Our role in special education was established in 1775 with the passing of The Education for All Handicapped Children Act. A lot has changed since then and we now have what is called the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.


In this episode of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast, we are welcoming Abe Saffer, MPM. Abe is the Senior Legislative Representative for AOTA and I asked him to come on the show to share with us how laws created and updated in Washington D.C. impact us as practicing school-based OTs.


Specifically, we will be discussing how IDEA differs from the Every Student Succeeds Act and what it means for us as OTPs, both now and in the coming years.


Listen in to better understand your role as a school-based OT.


Links to Show References:



Transcript

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Amazing Narrator

Hello and welcome to the OT Schoolhouse podcast, your source for school-based occupational therapy tips, interviews, and professional development. Now to get the conversation started, here is your host Jayson Davies, class is officially in session.


Jayson Davies

Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Episode 91 of the OT Schoolhouse podcast. So excited for you to be here today. I'm so excited about today's interview. In previous episodes, you might have heard me use the term ESSA or ESSA and that stands for Every Student Succeeds Act, and that act was actually passed in 2015. It wasn't an amendment or replacement to the No Child Left Behind Act that was passed in the early 2000s. Well, we're gonna dive in deeper into that with a very special person today from AOTA the American Occupational Therapy Association to share more about what ESSA is. And also what AOTA is doing, not just in regards to ESSA, but also for school-based practice in general. Today, we have on Abe Saffer. And He is the senior legislative representative for AOTA I don't want to dive too much into what he does because he's going to share so much with us. Right upfront. He is the sole legislative representative that we have in AOTA and trust me, he is tasked with so much. It's one of the big reasons that I always advocate for you to be an AOTA member. In fact, they have multiple tiers coming out soon, so will be even easier for you to be an AOTA member. I really hope that you enjoy this episode, but even more, so I hope you're inspired a little bit by what he has to say today. So without any further ado, here is Abe Saffer, from AOTA. Hello, and welcome to the show Abe. How are you doing today?


Abe Saffer

I'm great. Thanks so much for having me.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, definitely. So, it's been a while since we've had a non-occupational therapist as the main guest the sole guest here. But as I know, and everyone is soon to find out, you are very connected to the world of OT. So I actually want to give you a second just to kind of share how you're connected to occupational therapy.




Abe Saffer

Well, I appreciate that. And it's a huge honor to be one of the few non-OTs to be on here. So I am one of the American Occupational Therapy Association's congressional lobbyists. So I do federal lobbying, in terms of a lot of issues, basically everything but health, traditional health stuff. And I do that with Congress, as well as the White House, the Department of Education. And I consider myself an education, disability, lobbyist, and advocate. And that's something that I love to be able to do. But then with AOTA now for a little over five years. And it's been absolutely fantastic. And so I'm glad you mentioned I wasn't an OT because I don't want people to get the wrong idea when I started talking about certain OT-specific practice areas or interventions or anything along those lines.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, and people who know the OT Schoolhouse podcast have listened before, they know that I'm a huge advocate for everyone being a part of AOTA paying your dues, or 18 or $19 a month or whatever it comes out to a year. That's kind of what pays your salary. And we're just appreciative of you doing that, and, and advocating for us, you know, without AOTA and all the work that they do and as well as our state organizations, I don't know where OT the profession would be today. So thank you. And going forward, I actually, let's stay on this a little bit is what does your day-to-day activity actually look at? You know, we're used to an occupational therapist, day-to-day activity, what does your day-to-day work look like for AOTA?


Abe Saffer

So I obviously work every day, I don't have what I would consider day-to-day activities I could have, I could have a day where I spend it. I mean, now they're having these virtual back-to-back zoom calls with Hill staff talking about a specific issue, whether that is education or workforce recruitment and shortages. I could have a day where I just spend it writing and I'm working on, you know, either writing articles or just resources for practitioners to understand or something in the mix where I'm just doing a little bit of everything. There's really no consistency to my days, whatever it is, I live my life entirely by my calendar, based on what it says I just do. It is all-powerful. And I listened to that above all else. And it's exciting to be able to see what comes up every day of doing different things. You know, say today, I'm working on a lot of you know, I worked on prep for this podcast as well, just making sure I had resources. I am planning a week of action, which I think will have already taken place related to another bill, a workforce diversity bill. And I'm actually following up with the White House on guidance documents related to how a SISP can be used in schools in general, I can talk a little bit more about that later. But it's I mean, day-to-day is a different hour to hour can be different. It is the perfect environment, I think for someone with ADHD. So it is fantastic that I get paid for probably the only thing I'm really good at and my market.


Jayson Davies

Great. Yeah. And, you know, I think as we go through this podcast, we're gonna get a better understanding of what you're actually doing specifically in relation to what we're talking about today, which is the ESSA Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and how you are trying to make sure that occupational therapy is talked about in that act, making sure that that act is actually being followed up on I think, a little bit. So I guess the next point that we want to discuss then is the ESSA Every Student Succeeds Act, and what that is, how it came to be, and kind of where OT fits into that.


Abe Saffer

Yeah, no, that's exactly where I think you should be starting. So the largest legislation that has to deal with Public Schools is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. So if you've ever heard of Title One schools or funding for low income, that's where it comes. So it's also called ESCA has the largest single source of federal funding for education in the country, or out of all the other bills. And any bill that provides funding, whether it's ESSA or anything else, needs to be reauthorized regularly by Congress. And that just gives them a chance to sort of seeing how things are working, is it still necessary to have you know, all those things and so, the Elementary Secondary Education Act was reauthorized in the early 2000s by and was named No Child Left Behind. So a lot of people know, NCLB. And then in 2015, at the end of that year, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and update it with a whole lot of different changes and get rid of things that didn't work. So No Child Left Behind is, for all intents and purposes, dead and ESSA is the new king of education law. And so that's where we are sort of now in the general education space, but ESSA included a lot of updates, including I talked about Title One that remains, but then they're under No Child Left Behind. They're about 80 to 85 competitive grants that schools could go to a no sorry, there were 50 that provided about 85 million in funding to different schools and programs. And those were eliminated and replaced with a larger grant called the title for a grant which is the student support and enrichment Grant students award success and enrichment grant. And that was authorized at 1.2 billion, so just a huge amount of money more and every year since we've been fighting to the crease that but ESSA is, is due soon for a reauthorization. And so we'll start to see some standalone bills floated and then when there's momentum enough for Congress to actually decide they wanted to act on it, then that's when they'll, that's when they'll update the law and reauthorize it.


Jayson Davies

Wow, that's a lot. So basically, ESSA is an amendment or an addendum to pre-existing law, correct?


Abe Saffer

Yep.


Jayson Davies

It gets reauthorized every like, I don't know, I think No Child Left Behind was in the early 2000s. So about every 10 years or so.


Abe Saffer

Yep. Different bills could have different years between them. But yeah, so you know, if someone says ESSA or if someone says ESCA, it's talking about the exact same thing, ESCA sort of the statute, that the law as it is, and ESSA amended the statute to make the changes that have existed since late 2015.




Jayson Davies

Gotcha. Okay. So now, I want to just delineate the difference between ESSA and IDEA, you said ESSA was the largest general education bill, I think it's kind of how you worded it. And IDEA, as we know, is more special education is that the main difference between those two is explained.


Abe Saffer

Yeah, yeah, for that's pretty a pretty good way of thinking about it. So ESSA is the number one source of federal funding for any education. I think it's like 16 and a half billion, maybe 17. a spin-off that actually looks at the numbers. IDEA is the second-largest source of funding for education, and it's about 13 or 14 billion, and it's intended specifically for students with disabilities and providing service for them. And so ESCA has been around since the 60s and IDEA while it started in 75. As the education for Handicapped Children Act IDEA was born as the reauthorization of the education of Handicapped Children Act to become the Individuals with Disability Education Act. And so the biggest difference is that ESSA is not as prescriptive. If it's funding for low income, there are some other grants in there and different laws that mandate. But overall, it's mostly just a money bill, for lack of a more nuanced way of saying it, IDEA is completely voluntary. States actually don't have to participate in IDEA. But if they do participate, then it becomes extremely prescriptive. So the reason that every state so every state does participate, and that's because the way to think about it is IDEA is an education funding bill. And section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is an unfunded civil rights bill. And so all of the rights that are guaranteed under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act can be funded through IDEA if that makes any sense. Yeah. So states don't have to participate in IDEA if they don't want to, but they're mandated to do everything anyway, under the Rehab Act. So every state participates in IDEA funding.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, cuz correct me if I'm wrong, but 504, section 504. I mean, it really doesn't have anything to do with education. It simply says that if you want federal funding, you have to provide accommodations, is that correct?


Abe Saffer

Yeah. And you don't need so you don't need a specific, IDEA is more for disabilities that will impact on your education, your instructional, your career, being able to access the curriculum. So for example, in my previous job, one of my responsibilities was making sure that students with type one diabetes had access to insulin at their schools. And so that's where a 504, IEP would come into play. So there was some academic, but for the most part, it was just making sure that they had that right to like, go to either go to the nurse's office or administer themselves, all those things. So IDEA is really meant to be for students that have a disability that impacts their ability to participate in the general education curriculum.


Jayson Davies

Sounds good, perfect. Thanks. And so I think most occupational therapists get into our first job as a school-based occupational therapist, and IDEA is what we hear all the time IEP needs to follow IDEA, we have to make sure that all of our services are compliant with IDEA. But we very rarely hear the term ESSA and how OTs fit into ESSA. And so I want to give you an opportunity to share that part. Where does occupational therapy, occupational therapy assistants fit into the Every Student Succeeds Act?


Abe Saffer

No, I think you're absolutely right. I'll say this is a sort of a teaser. But it's a myth that IDEA is the only way that OTs can be paid, and either at all periods or in federal funding, at least. So when ESSA was created, there was a term prior called pupil service. And that's something that a lot of folks might know it didn't have a large role and no child left behind in the previous iterations of ESCA. And so ESSA was created. And a coalition I can talk a little bit about later naces. Back then, was actually the National Alliance for People Service CCoordinators, they fought hard to add the term specialized instructional support personnel into ESSA. And so this did a couple of things. One, it would provide a different term that OTs fit under essentially the exact same list of professions as related services under IDEA. So it created this new term. And that allowed it to actually use asset funds, those title one funding, and all the other sources to pay for these professionals. So as you can now pay for any specialized instructional support personnel, you can use that funding. Also, what it did was try to promote, although I will say that it fell short because it didn't provide additional funding specifically for this but to promote multi-tiered systems of support in general education, allowing for services to go to students with, you know, without an either without a disability at all, or without a diagnosed disability just to sort of, you know, OTs no much better as their response to intervention model, but like being able to provide those services without having a disability, specifically diagnosed was the intention of ESSA. And so that's sort of where we've been since the end of 2015. And we still have a lot of fights to go with regards to ESSA.


Jayson Davies

Okay, so it sounds like you're saying ESSA says, Hey, yes, related services. SISP specialized instructional support personnel can support students that don't have an IEP, but at the same time, it didn't go as far to give them a lot of funding in order to do that. Is that what you're saying?


Abe Saffer

Yeah, so IDEA provides funding above what the actual average cost of a student to educate a student, there's meant to provide funding, in addition to all those services, ESSA didn't do that, there's been a lot of efforts to try to get that get funding through Congress in the next iteration. But there's also we sort of understanding instinctually. But also, we've seen a little bit of evidence that if you provide those services to students, in general, it can have a huge return on investment, it's just the difficulty is that a lot of administrators don't fully know that system exists, that that term exists. And that ability exists. And a lot of practitioners don't really know about it. And so whenever I'm talking with school-based or pediatric OTs, all I do is say, you know, you are assist, you are specialized instructional support personnel and try to just get that to become the, you know, the term that they know, is something that allows them sort of it's their key into the general education setting.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. And you know, I've been using it much more since I've gotten in contact with you. I've heard you speak with every moment counts, and with Sue Bazyk a little bit. And, yeah, I'm trying to ingrain that into my vocabulary and use it as much as possible because I really do see occupational therapy as more of a, or I shouldn't say as more of but equally preventative, as opposed to rehabilitative. And I think that's where ESSA really comes into play, having more than that preventative role through the tiered intervention model, as opposed to only working with students who have already been identified as needing support through an IEP. So absolutely. You mentioned a little bit about funding. And you actually even said something about how OTs don't have to just be paid under IDEA funds? What would the alternative look like to that? Because I do talk to OTs, and sometimes they tell me, the reason I'm not doing RTI is that RTI is a general education function, and I'm being paid from special education funds. So you can kind of explain a little bit how those may be different banks of money work and how OTs could potentially be paid otherwise?


Abe Saffer

Yeah, so first of all, I'll just say I'll do a quick list of our funding sources on the federal level. So ESSA, number one IDEA is number two, Medicaid is actually number three, about four and 5 billion a year, and then title for a round out the group. And so all this federal funding only represents about 8% of education funding in the country.


Jayson Davies

Wow.


Abe Saffer

So using that to say, state and local governments are the ones that make up that other 92%. When an OT says, I can only work with students with disabilities, because I'm paid under IDEA, what I'm hearing is my school is coming to me and saying that I have X amount of IEP minutes to accomplish every week or month. And because of that, I can't go into the general ed space, I would bet a lot of money that most OTs don't know the line item that their salaries come from, I mean, IDEA absolutely is used to pay for the salaries of these folks. But there's a lot of ways that you can sort of supplement what you're doing with a student's disability to help other students without disabilities without diagnosis ability, there was a concept called incidental benefit under IDEA, that was sort of that actually prohibited it. And so that said that if you were a related service provider, and you were working with a student for disability, you should not be working with a student without one because the way you said it is they were paid for under IDEA, and you shouldn't be providing that incidental benefit. But it was very quickly that IDEA decided that just wasn't, there was no reason for that, and rocked it. And so now if you're able to complete IEP minutes, in a group setting, or in a whole-class setting, or even, you know, in some cases, a whole school setting, you can use some of those, you know, take in groups of students with disabilities with an IEP and a couple with without an IEP and work on the same issue together, whether that's handwriting or social, emotional or mental health, or any of the huge range of services that OTs can provide, and be able to actually provide those services to any students. And so while even though that and I know that a lot of OTs look at it, and they say, Well, you know, I don't have the ability or the rights to do it. A lot of it stems from the fact that school administrators don't know about ESSA like they don't fully know ESSA and that's sort of has a lot to do with sort of how it was rolled out when it was signed into law in the first place.



Jayson Davies

Yeah, and that was kind of a question I also had is, these bills are massive, but they're all happening in Washington, DC, and What happens when a bill actually gets passed? How does that trickle down to the local district where I work? And what is the processor that?


Abe Saffer

I will say how a bill becomes a law sort of idealistic process, and then I'll talk about the reality. So Congress comes together decides to create a law and the law is, has certain things in it. But if you were a school administrator, first of all, it's not the easiest thing to read. I mean, it's a lot of like, refers to clause A and Section B, you know, you have to be sort of be trained and experienced in it. And so what happens is, whatever agency the law affects, so obviously, in our case is Department of Education, we'll take the law as passed and release regulations. And regulatory language is just as law binding as a statute because it is passed through a very specific, open, transparent process where you can have time to publicly comment, but it'll be much easier to read. So if you've ever read actually IDEA's regulations, it's a really easy read to look through and understand. It talks about consent and sort of who's on the team and all that. And so then what also the department will do is they produce the regulations, but those can be, you know, I can show you the books, but they can be pretty thick. And so they'll release what's called sub-regulatory guidance or advice. And this can take the form of a letter to school administrators or to anyone in the public saying, Here's what this new law says and what you should do. It can take the form of a Q&A where the questions literally like ask, can you use SF funds to pay for OT services, and it can take a lot of other forms. And now getting into the reality, if you think about just the timeline. ESSA was passed and signed into law in late mid-December of 2015. So by the time the Department of Education, got it and was able to really analyze it and work on the regulations, it was early 2017, which was a new education administration, a new Department of Education staff. And for the guidance was not a top priority, unfortunately. And so I think one of the biggest barriers that we face in the education community and the folks in the field is that ESSA never got the sort of rollout that other legislation has gotten because it just wasn't a high priority. And we're still actually fighting for in a perfect world, ESSA's regulations would have actually literally had guidance documents that said, Hey, sis has a new term. Here's what it means. Here's what we can use, and, and all of that. But that never happened and where we're still asking and advocating for the department to release something along those lines, and they're still getting folks up to in different positions there. But so we're still hopeful, but it's still a process ongoing, even as we're literally, you know, a couple of years away from ESSA being reauthorized again.


Jayson Davies

Wow. All right. You mentioned Title One funds a little while ago, I know the term. And I'm sure many other OTs out there. We hear the term we hear our administrators use the terms, but we don't necessarily fully understand it. Can you explain what title one means? And also what it means as far as funding?


Abe Saffer

Yeah, sure. So you know, the most base level, most legislation, especially big legislations, will have different titles and it could be anything from just massively different sort of policy areas. So under ESSA, Title One is meant for students support for low-income students, the wonky way of looking at it is saying it's a formula grant. So every student, that they take all the students that are low income, and they'll, you know, divide the number of money that the government has appropriated for it, and each student gets that so the school gets extra funding for it. If a certain percentage of a school is low-income, they'll call that a low-income school. And then every student in that school is considered low income. So it's a way of providing extra education funds to a school district that has a high population of low-income residents. So you know, I live in a suburb of DC, where the average income is pretty high just because of the government. And so our school districts have a little bit more money than some of DCs inner-city ones. And so they want to make sure that there's some kind of parity when we're looking at title one. That's what that would be providing. And title two would do those like teacher prep and school principal prep, and I'm not an expert by any means, and two or three and then title four is sort of meant to be this catch-all section to sort of help overall school Health and Safety, well being and, and sort of effective use of technology. It's just the different sections.


Jayson Davies

Okay. And so if an occupational therapist listening right now they're like, Hey, I know I'm at a title one school, what would you encourage them to do? Or is there a way to potentially Like, who do they talk to? To say, hey, you know what? I'm a SISP? Is there a way for me to potentially even get some supplies through title one? Or who distributes title one in my district? How can I be a part of that conversation?


Abe Saffer

So the way that funding will generally work is that a school will just get the amount that because everything gets funneled in through the state government. So you know, Maryland will get a certain amount of IDEA funding and title one funding based on the different formulas. For the practitioners, as they're looking to try to expand, they should know that. I mean, obviously, one of the biggest challenges they face is that schools are very underfunded, even IDEA is dramatically underfunded, unfortunately, and so that, they're usually utilized just to fulfill these IEP minutes. And that can be a daunting challenge. If you work seven hours a day, and you'd have seven hours a day worth of IEP minutes, you need to get a little bit creative. And so the most important, I think, the takeaway is that, first of all, we hope that OT is wanting to help beyond obviously, I think they do but help beyond just students with IEPs. And so they can use some of that creativity, whether it's, you know, again, using the group model, so that they're, you know, killing two birds with one stone, or whether they're going to their administrator and saying, Hey, RTI can actually save you money in the long run with, you know, the district in the long run. And, you know, legally, you're allowed to do this, that's sort of the best way of doing it because education is extremely state and local control, like, there's a lot we can do in the federal government. But the IDEA, the see is the floor is the bare minimum that schools need to do with sort of students with disabilities. But they can do way more if they want to the state sets the ceiling. And so it's important to work with, you know, every OT just to be able to work with their school administrators and special ed directors and any other principals to be able to say, I want to be able to provide services to students without disabilities, and really talk about what that is. And we're hoping to have some more examples and resources of that, where they're starting to trickle in. And we're starting to get people who are actually doing that, and some of the benefits. But it's something that OTs actually have the legal federally legal right to do it. Now, again, every state is different. And so there literally might be a state that just says, OTs can only work with students with disabilities, but I have not found one that says that. So just talk to your state associations, like they're fantastic resources. We can always also at AOTA help people find to see if there's some state prohibition against it. But talking to your principal and saying, I'm allowed to do this by federal law, and it'll benefit you. Can you please help me get some flexibility? Hopefully, you have, they'll have the support to be able to do that.


Jayson Davies

Gotcha. Cool. Thank you. From hearing you speak at the last meeting that we're both in. I feel like I recall you saying something about specialized instructional personnel being a part of the team that is supposed to be making money decisions at a district level? Do you recall that? And my offer?


Abe Saffer

No, no, you're right. So so one of the ways that assist were integrated into the process is, and again, it was an opportunity, I think, last under the previous administration, was that every state had to develop their state plan for under ESSA. And that plan was required to have assessed representative as part of the team to create that plan. And then the Department of Education was required to have an assist representative as part of the team that evaluated that plan. And ideally, it would have been that the department looked at it and said, This is great, but we would like to see X, Y, or Z either changed, increased, or you shouldn't be doing this, whatever the policy may be. And really, that didn't happen. I mean, I'm sure most of the states have great plans. But for more or less, they were just rubber-stamped by the department and there was none that had any feedback that I'm aware of to say this needs to change or you need to relook at this one policy that you're or part of your plan. So that's sort of where the money issue came in. And so it was just an opportunity last, I think, to have the federal government try to show some best practices that might work, you know, a lot that's being done in one or two states to help spread the word a little bit more.


Jayson Davies

Gotcha. Okay, I do know, at the district level, a lot of times the special education department or whatever department, will convene committees to discuss how they want to spend, oftentimes the Medicare funding, has to go back towards students with disabilities or back to the students in some way. And there often is a team, I know I have fought for my ability to be a part of that team so that I can actually be a little bit of that decision-making process. Now that might not be title one title to whatever funds, but that was Medicare, and being able to be a part of that team to kind of hear what's going on what people are asking for money for, and also to be a part of the team just to help make decisions. I think that's important. I think other occupational therapists should try to be someone who can be on that team, oftentimes, they just want a related service provider or a SISP person on that team. And there are so many of us related service providers, you have so many different providers, you have the OT, you have the PT, the speech therapist, you have the counselors, the nurse, the list goes on and on even transportation as a related service. And so they'll bring in the easiest person, the easiest related service provider to be a part of that team. And with OT speech therapists, oftentimes the therapy providers, we're out at the school sites, we're not at the district office where that's happening. And so we might not get thought of as being a part of that team. And so this isn't a question but just for all the OTs out there listening, you know, try and be a part of that team mentioned, you know, I'm a SISP, and I can be a part of general education, or I'm a related service provider, and I would love to be on that committee where decisions are being made about what to do with the Medicare funds. So be a part of that conversation.


Abe Saffer

I think you're hitting on another area where just be part of the team as much as possible, like being able to work with the general and special education teachers and the administrators, and just being part, you know, as much as possible. And I understand this can be difficult, especially if it is covering multiple schools or as a part-time contract. Yeah, exactly. Or even districts be part of that team to the most extent you can be because you're going to be able to provide resources and ideas that you're going to be the only one who would be able to suggest that and a lot of our like, my favorite thing about OT is, while it's extremely evidence-based and takes a lot of training, when you hear it, you're like, Oh, that makes complete sense. And you know, you don't really have a whole lot of questions about it just because it just is sort of like, oh, yeah, no, absolutely like sort of model. And so just try to be as part of a team as much as you can, because it'll, it's gonna benefit you in the long run. And it's gonna also benefit the students a great deal.


Jayson Davies

I absolutely got to be a part of the team. You teased it earlier, and I want to move on to it all the groups that are working to make sure that SIPS and ESSA really get kind of the attention that they deserve and need, who's all part of that group and I believe it's the National Association of SISP, correct?


Abe Saffer

Yeah, the National Association of Specialized Instructional Support Personnel. And I'm, I'm honored to be one of the co-chairs of the coalition. So it's every major organization that represents every professional association that you can imagine everything from the school sites, the school counselors, OT, PT, speech, the music therapists, dance therapists, they're all part of this because they're all obsessed with the coalition also includes the major education unions, like NEA EFT, and then special. There's the Council for Ministers of Special Education case and the National Association of Special Education directors. And as the and both of them are involved in so this is a huge coalition of a broad coalition of folks that really care about system issues, which is really important, because there are about three and a half million teachers in this in the country, there's a million status. So it's not like we're an inconsequential number of folks in the school. But we are. So I think a lot of the things you touched on. Yeah, a lot of the things you touched on, were just not thought of as much because you know, and OT isn't coming in and providing three or four days a week of service to a class, it's helping kind of in a more sporadic fashion. And so being part of that team is just even more important. And so on the federal level and the national level, we all work very well collaboratively to try to draw as much attention to what assists are who they are, and what they can do. And in April of the next year of 2022, so I guess a couple of months when this is released, there's going to be an assessed week, which we've had every year for the last few. We missed 2020 For reasons but we usually do a whole lot of advocacy and marketing around that So definitely keep watch for AOTA to announce that because we're going to be doing that again in 2022.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. That's awesome. So nasisp.org, I believe is that website, correct? For?


Abe Saffer

Yes, it has a fantastic and this is one of the resources, that there's a fantastic PowerPoint on there that talks about everything that I, you know, in a much more nuanced and accurate way talks about everything that I've talked about today with regards to this.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. Alright, I think we've touched on ESSA and SIST so much right now. So thank you for that. I do want to discuss one more topic. I don't know if I put this in the notes for us. But health prevention and occupational therapy within the schools. And, you know, we have a lot going on in our schools now. And if it's not needed because students are returning to school right now, after being home, "homeschool", it's not homeschooled. But being educated from home, you had a lot of that going on. Also, as we are now seeing schools start to open back up, I think we're also starting to see a rise and other unfortunate events, which I hate to even mention, like the school shootings and whatnot, we're starting to see those come back up now seems like some schools are going back in session, is health prevention, a part of that tiered intervention that you kind of mentioned, ESSA could kind of had an influence on but didn't fund is that part of it? health prevention? And can OTs work on that?


Abe Saffer

Yeah. So I mean, here's what I'll make me, my pitch for AOTA membership. Because if we had, you know, membership is a huge driving factor for our ability to do certain things. And I'm going to advocate for the things that we've talked about plus a lot more, no matter what, but if we had a lot more members, and there were two of me, a lot of the priorities that, you know, I would love to see moving forward and making and make really making progress on would become a reality. And so I think that there is a, I think that there's going to be a big push over the next few years, you know, it's already kind of started, but they'll make, I think there's gonna be some progress made with regards to like, schools being these school-based health centers. And so students would be able to receive, you know, a lot of their services, not just ones that are the ones for academic relevancy, but provided there at the school. And so it's I think it's an issue though, in an area that we can really play a part and really show some improvement in a sort of like what the benefit of school is because if you're, we know how to deal with students with disabilities to an extent, we're catching up, although we're definitely not there, we know how to deal with students are going through a mental health crisis. Now, we need to have increased access to this because it's just, it's not nearly enough. But we sort of knowing what to do. And that the fewer distractions a student has, whether it's through an academic challenge, a disability challenge, or just like a, you know, a much more standard health challenge, you know, could even be just the flu or strep or something along those lines, the fewer distractions that students have, the more they're going to take away from school and be and find that benefit from it. And so my hope is that eventually we're talking about not just how do we integrate OT more into general ed and special ed, but also finding those students that would need an OT but maybe wouldn't have access to it as easily outside of the school. And I've actually heard of OTs that are entirely separate entities from the school. But the school provides them with a room in the school so that they can practice there. And so they'll see students with disabilities, they'll see general ed students, and they can actually even build not just Medicaid, but also private insurance. And so it's sort of a great way to be able to provide students with just the full range of all of their needs, whether it's academic or health.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, absolutely. And I know the kind of along that point that you're talking about, a lot of us have worked in rural areas. And I don't know about you guys listening, but I have been in a situation where ethically I want to provide as much support that I can for that student because I know that they're not going to get occupational therapy that they need outside. There are just no OTs within a 100-mile radius of them. Now teletherapy is really stepping into that spot, potentially and can help. But sometimes, you know, you just kind of wish that occupational therapy of medical base model could be provided at that school site, whether it be after school, or even potentially, during school because there are so many barriers to access, such as location and transportation. So that sounds like a very interesting model that you're just sharing.


Abe Saffer

Yeah, absolutely.


Jayson Davies

All right. Well, I think it's just about time to wrap up but I want to ask you and give you the opportunity to also share what else is AOTA is working on outside of trying to help Bass OTs through ESSA and various other means, what else is AOTA? Working on at this time?


Abe Saffer

So first of all, I think the biggest thing we're working on right now is in my area is just trying to make that playing field a little easier for OTs to provide services and the general adspace. Because there are very few, I mean, we want for all SISP, but there are very few professions that are as holistic as OTs are. And so that's sort of my priorities in terms of the policy. But when it comes to everything that we're doing, we want to make sure that AOTA is providing the resources that are not just meet the needs of OTs as where they are now. But where they want to grow and really be able to provide those resources to show you know, how would you be able to, like think creatively and double up on a couple of students that allows you to access more in the gen ed space? Or how would you be able to say you're going to provide more mental health support to different students, or we're working together? And so we're always looking to see what the landscape is and what resources are needed. And our practice was fantastic. One of the things they did that, that, for me, as an AOTA employee that I'm the proudest of, and I can say this because I had absolutely nothing to do with it was our back to school resource that we released last August. And I can say, personally, I literally took I printed, I had it printed out, I print out everything, completely analog. But I literally took it out and designed by basement for my son's school during virtual schooling I like to use the OT model of how would you treat your home as your virtual school down to like he was required to wear shoes and no pajamas and how to eat lunch in a specific way. And we even like, had the bell for when school started. And then and all that stuff. And you know, we're always looking to see what resources are actually needed. And so the more folks we have that are part of the process to say like, Oh, hey, as a practitioner, I want to be able to do this, or whatever the service delivery is and say, Can you help me make sure that I can provide that. And then we can say, Yes, we have these four resources that can absolutely support you. And that gives us a great idea that this fifth one should be developed to be able to help you. When the meeting, you're just you're talking about we have a Sue Bazyk and everyone counts. There was a lot of discussion about barriers that OTs are dealing with. And one of the resources that I want to create myself as a policy person is a myth. Resource. I'm saying there's a lot of misinformation and stuff that you might not know. But let's talk about some of the myths of OTs practice in school, like we talked about a couple, it's a myth that only IDEA can you know, resources can fund OTs. It's a myth that OTs can only provide a small part of their service like they can do their full scope of service to a student as long as it's academically relevant. And so like, that's something that I'm working on now. And hopefully, we'll have out soon, we're still trying to figure out the best avenue for but it's something that I love. And so we're just always looking for ways for people to just I'm in telephone for me just to sort of know what's going on on the ground. People are talking to me and saying, these are what we're seeing. But also just to say it'd be really helpful if I had this and it might already exist. And if it doesn't, like we have a whole team that would be excited to be able to produce something like that. I would say out of all of the settings and areas where OTs are currently like I just see as school-based practices that the most fertile ground for a huge expansion of the use of OT,


Jayson Davies

that's saying something that is


Abe Saffer

Yeah,


Jayson Davies

awesome. I love him. And I love hearing that you just set up your basement based upon everything that the school-based OTs that you work with kind of put together and you just ran and ran. And that goes to show for everyone listening like you don't have to work directly with a student to make an impact on a student's life. I've sent home newsletters in the past, I've sent home videos to teachers to parents, and all those little things, they can add up and make a change with many students. I mean, I'm assuming your son doesn't receive OT services.


Abe Saffer

Now, he did probably tell me where the OT office was in his school when he went back after a year but now he's never received OT services. I mean, other than indirectly by the amount of OTs I work with and giving me advice, but But yeah, but it was just that this is one of the reasons why I do feel like school-based practice has the most potential is because there's not a student in any school who would not benefit at some level to getting OT services. Some are a lot. Some are a little but my son is doing very well in school and thankfully the pandemic was not hard for him like I think he was able to benefit a lot from OT services even though he didn't get through school?



Jayson Davies

Yes.


Abe Saffer

Got it because his dad has a connection.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. That is awesome. All right, man, before I let you go, where can anyone listening learn a little bit more about everything. You mentioned a few resources. But if you can kind of sum up?


Abe Saffer

yeah, so I would always recommend naces.org nasisp.org. That's where all the resources for the SISP bar, you can also take a look. I mean, obviously, aota.org has a ton of resources, we can link, you can follow me on Twitter and ask questions if you want. I'm an AOTA, AbeAOTA on Twitter. And my email address, I think in public. And I know it's public in terms of like, federal lobby, regular registration, but it's just astaffer@aota.org. And I encourage anyone to not add me to random listservs. But to email me if you have questions or need a little bit of help with anything, I just got back from the Children and Youth specialty conference in Orlando, which was my first conference in person in two and a half years. And it's just, I can't tell you how much I miss talking with OTs in general, that not just the ones that work for AOTA and they're fantastic. But the ones on the ground, just hearing what they're doing is amazing. And so I am much better at my job if folks email me and say, Hey, I got a problem. And I need your me to fix it. And I do my best. And sometimes when I'm successful, and sometimes I'm not. But I'm always honest, tell you what we're able to do and what the law says.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Abe, really appreciate you coming in dropping all this knowledge. I think it's important. I think this is something that OTs don't talk about, and we don't learn about in college. It's not something that you know, is thrown at us. But it's important to know, kind of where we're being funded for what, like you talked about those myths, what are those myths that aren't true? You know, we can provide services outside of IDEA? Yes, we do have to somehow get creative and create time to do that. But it is something and I think if we start to do it in a creative way, we'll start to see it more implemented in a more systematic way when we see the benefits that the creative way, creates, you know, administrators and teachers are watching. And they do see the benefits that we create when we're not just working with those students with disabilities. And you know what, maybe it is a classroom of students with disabilities, but they don't each have services, that still tiered intervention, you don't have to be on their IEP to still help them. So thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming on here. And you know, maybe we'll have to do this again and 2023 for SISP week.


Abe Saffer

I would love to I'm always happy to come back.


Jayson Davies

Sounds good, man. Thank you. Appreciate you being here. Take care. Pleasure. All right. Thank you so much for listening in today. And thank you a big thank you to a for coming on and not holding anything back you really told us like it is and he gave us a lot to work with. I hope that you will continue to support AOTA so that you can continue to support Abe and everyone else there that is working on our behalf. Until next time, enjoy your week. Enjoy your month and I will see you next time on the OT Schoolhouse podcast. Take care. Bye.


Amazing Narrator

Thank you for listening to the OT Schoolhouse podcast. For more ways to help you and your students succeed right now. Head on over to otschoolhouse.com Until next time, class is dismissed.







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