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OTSH 81: School-Based OT Workloads with Alexa Corley, OTD




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Welcome to the show notes for Episode 81 of the OT School House Podcast.


In this episode of the OT School House Podcast, we are talking to recent graduate, Alexa Corley, about her OTD capstone where she surveyed and interviewed therapists, teachers, and administrators about the idea and use of a workload model.


Listen in to hear her findings and a discussion about the positive effects of using a workload model.


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Episode Transcript

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Amazing Narrator

Hello and welcome to the OT School House 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 there and welcome back for another episode of the OT School House podcast. My name is Jayson Davies, occupational therapist down here in Southern California. And I'm just super excited to be with you, wherever you're listening today, I am just happy to have you here listening and trying to improve yourself as an occupational therapist, learning what you can learn to better serve your students as well as the teachers that you work with. So again, super happy to have you joining us here today. So today, we are actually diving into the topic of workload and caseload just a little bit. And we're going to do that by looking at a capstone from Alexa Corley that she completed as part of her doctoral program at the University of Central Arkansas. So we're going to have an interview and discussion with Alexa. And she's going to tell us all about the research that she did leading up to, and the actual work that she did herself to determine what OTs, administrators, and teachers perceive about a workload and a caseload model when it comes to school-based occupational therapy. This is something that's very important to all of us a school based OTs, I believe, I really think that under a workload model, we could serve more students potentially in less time and have better outcomes. And well, let's just... I don't want to get too far in I just want to let Alexa share with you all the details that she came across, the research that she found, and then what her survey results showed. So without any further ado, here is Alexa Corley talking about her research on workload versus caseload. Hey, Alexa, welcome to the OT School House podcast. How are you doing today?


Alexa Corley, OTD

I'm doing great. Thanks for having me. How are you?


Jayson Davies

I am wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us. It's we haven't had an occupational therapist working on their doctorate on the podcast, at least in a while. I think we've had him before. But it's been a while. So I'm excited to hear a little bit about all the work that you've been doing in OT school, especially as it relates to school based OT. With that said, I actually want to give you a little bit of a moment here to kind of share a little bit about yourself and where you are in your OT journey.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, so I am currently in my final year, well, final weeks really of OT school. So I'm working on my doctoral capstone project. So this is the last thing we do in our OT curriculum that we follow. And so I've already finished my courses and my fieldwork. So I'm just working on my doctoral capstone project right now. And that is around a school based practice, which I know is what we're going to talk about today. So I'm excited to share about it.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. And you know what, we're gonna kind of get into more about your project. But let's just talk about OT and OT School first, what made you decide to sign up for Occupational Therapy school?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, so kind of an interesting journey. For me pretty much my entire life, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. So I went to college, and majored in elementary education. But during college, I also worked at a preschool just for extra money, you know, during college, so my boss, there was actually the first one who kind of told me, you know, you should really look into doing some sort of therapy, and you know, instead of teaching, and so she bugged me a lot about it. But I finally did look into it. And I found out that actually, a couple of my friends were interested in doing occupational therapy as well, and kind of got plugged in with somebody and was able to observe and OT at a pediatric clinic. And I immediately loved it, and decided that that is what I wanted to do. So as little as I knew about just observing at once, I still just thought that it was more suited for me then teaching kind of the one on one versus like one on 30 in the classroom. I kind of thought that that would be better suited for me, like I said, and so in my mind, it was still it's still teaching, it's still working with kids. And so just in a little bit of a different way and more personalized, which I think suits me better. So yeah, I continued on with my education major, finish that out, but I had to add some extra classes to get into OT school and ended up at the University of Central Arkansas and the OTD program.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. And so I have to ask you this while you were, what were you doing? Were you had a boss that you were doing, like teaching fieldwork or not a field work, but you were working in early elementary?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, I was working in a preschool and it was just like an after afternoon job. Just, you know, no field work or anything. It was just kind of at my church. I got plugged in got a job there. So...


Jayson Davies

Oh, cool. And so your boss, what was she by trade?


Alexa Corley, OTD

While she was the director of the preschool, I'm not quite sure of her entire background, but she had a daughter who was a speech therapist. So she kind of knew a little bit about the realm and didn't necessarily push the speech therapy, she just knew of the therapy world in general, and I guess saw something in me that would be good for that. So...


Jayson Davies

That's awesome. It's not always the case that we run into someone that knows about OT speech therapy and is able to give us that little bit of forethought to think about going into OT. So that's great that you had someone to kind of just even make you aware of the profession. That's pretty cool.


Alexa Corley, OTD

For sure.


Jayson Davies

So now, you made it to Central Arkansas University, and how has that been? What's your experience been like in OT school?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, it's been great and challenging. But in a good way. I, you know, I observed that OT once and then got into OT school and realized I really didn't even know what I was getting into. I didn't really even know quite what OT is. But it's been great. I've learned a lot and luckily still loved it. And you know, it was the right choice. It's been good, though, part and fun. Of course, COVID has, you know, it impacted our classes, we have a lot of online stuff, planning our fieldwork and getting that worked out was kind of crazy. But we got it and all my placements were wonderful. And so now I'm on the tail end with Capstone. And it's just been really great all around.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. And correct me if I'm wrong, but you are just about ready to graduate. Right?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yes, August 7, just a few weeks away.


Jayson Davies

Well, I'm going to preemptively congratulate you by time this actually airs, you will probably be an OT graduate. So congratulations, and best of luck on the NBC OT.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Thank you so much.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And so one more question before we move on to really diving into your Capstone. And that is we do actually have quite a few occupational therapy students that listen to this podcast. And what one piece of advice would you give to them, in their endeavor, working through OT school? Is there one thing that you learned that you could really provide some, some insight to?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, I love this question. I would definitely say maintaining that school life balance, especially in the beginning, you know, you kind of want to be perfect and studying all the time. And at least for our curriculum, the beginning semesters were the hardest, and just kind of figuring everything out. And so you kind of get caught up in all of that, but just maintaining that balance. And we're learning about occupations and helping others engage in their occupations. But then we kind of get stuck just only doing our schoolwork, so engaging your own occupations, whatever those are, and just kind of maintain that balance.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And did you have one specific hobby, routine, occupation that helps you throughout OT school?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Anytime I could just get with my classmates outside of class, that was a big one, just anytime we could just go to lunch or anything, even if it was just in between classes. That was big for me.


Jayson Davies

That's nice. And you mentioned actually having a few friends that ended up being interested in OT when you were kind of finding out about it, did you all end up in the same program together?


Alexa Corley, OTD

One of them did. So we actually both were in the education program at my undergraduate college. And then we both are now about to graduate together from at a tea school. So that's been really fun.


Jayson Davies

That's nice to know someone throughout the entire experience and always have them to kind of have those those tough conversations with and then like you said, see each other outside of school, that's really sure. Alright, so let's talk a little bit about your Capstone. It is about school based. So the first question is, why did you pick a capstone based on school based OT? Obviously, you have some early intervention background? Is that it or Why? What else?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, so like you said, kind of that background in education, I've pretty much been interested in school based OT the whole time, I'd love to just kind of mesh those together, my education, mind and my OT brain, put those together in my practice. So I knew I wanted to gear my capstone towards school based practice, just learn a little bit more about it myself. And, you know, have that as kind of a resume builder as well, even. So, definitely wanted to do that. And when we started the process of just kind of submitting our capstone ideas, I had just briefly talked with a professor and honestly come up with a completely different idea from where I ended up. I think it was just I can't even remember exactly, it was maybe more preschool and parent involvement. So that was like my idea I pitched and then afterwards, my faculty mentor, when we were working on solidifying our ideas and all of that, he said, just go to the literature, see what's out there and then find the gap find the need. And so that's what I did. It was perfect advice. So I went to just a jot any articles I could find about school based practice and found my need for sure. So just kind of saw in that literature, all of the best practices per se or evidence based practice out there in the art goals and what LTA was recommending for school based practitioners, but then also just all these recent surveys that there's still some misunderstanding, still, you know, those practices aren't necessarily being implemented. And also found this idea of caseload workload, which is kind of where I ended up gearing my research towards, as we'll talk about. And that was what I found to be the biggest need just how do we transition to that, because we've already seen that the workload model is more beneficial for those best practices. And so where can we fill in that gap of actually making that transition happen? So that's where I kind of landed on my capstone.


Jayson Davies

That's awesome. Yeah, and I don't even know if I shared this with you when we were kind of talking a few weeks ago, but I actually advise some students in their master's thesis at a university around here. And what your mentor gave you was exactly right. I mean, a lot of people go in with an idea, like they want to solve world peace, but they haven't gone and looked at the literature behind real beast to see what is actually going to take. And so I really love that advice that your mentor gave you, because that's exactly what I tell my students as well as like, you know, yeah, we want to do something related to school based OT, I want you to get that experience of school based OT. But you obviously have never worked at a school based OT, you're still in college. So you need to start with that literature review, and find out what is the missing piece. I'm sure you ran into articles such as articles by Surya and Garfinkel, they're two really big names in this whole caseload workload world. Yeah, I mean, so let's, I guess let's dive into what did you kind of go from there what you did your lit review? Well, that wasn't even your full lit review that was just kind of giving them a piece of what might be out there. So where did you go from there?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, so I agree with the world peace example, you said before I answer your question, we especially I think my class, which it's great that we want to do all these world changing things. But with our capstone, we have 14 weeks. So my mentor also kind of had to bring us down a little bit and be like, you know, you only have 14 weeks to this, what's feasible. So yeah, I just wanted to throw that in there. But after that kind of initial just looking at some articles finding the need, I did do you know, some deeper literature review, especially with caseload workload, I wanted to mention, I found several things that AOTA does provide. And those authors that you mentioned, I read everything they have in their website, they're fantastic. So I looked more into that. And AOTA, there's a document from 2006, that I found, talking about the transition from caseload to workload. And then 15 years later, here we are, and they're still not really like I had never heard of it until I got into the literature. And that has that document has been updated in in 2014. But anyway, so I just saw that gap. And that kind of like blew my mind. Because the wet my personality, I'm like, why are we not? Don't we always want to be better, you know. And so the fact that it's taking so long is that just kind of blew my mind. But I saw that as a need that I could, you know, kind of try to address with my, my capstone project. And so I knew I would need a research component. So I kind of came up with what was needed based on some of the articles I read, kind of what questions have already been asked, What do we need more of to support. And I wrote the proposal for my project to include an online survey to kind of be that research component. And then also kind of included just some goals within my project to create some resources or something like that to aid school based OTs, just in the misunderstandings and the lack of education that are continually being reported just by other school staff and OTs, and just anyone in the education world kind of filling that research to practice implementation gap that's out there.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. Yeah. And, you know, one of the therapists to I have had the pleasure of talking to on the podcast, and she's going to be presenting at the back to school conference that we're hosting in August, Dr. Susan Bazyk, and, you know, she has some research about how it takes, I want to say it's like, she found research, I don't think she conducted the research, maybe it was her but 14 years for research to make its way to practice. And that just kind of talks about or goes to show what you're talking about, you know, even though AOTA was talking about the transition of workload 14,15 years ago, we're just getting to the point where people are taking it seriously and really thinking about it. So it's unfortunate that it takes that long, hopefully through that. That's one of my goals, actually, through this podcast is to get research out there quicker. And so I hope we're doing that. And I'm so glad to have you on to talk a little bit about your research. So, going forward, did you have a hypothesis before you started to send out we're going to get into your questions a little bit deeper, but Before we do that, did you have a hypothesis that you were expecting to hear back from therapist?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, so just based on what was already out there, I hypothesized that the workload model group, so any any practitioners taking the survey that said they're under a workload model, that they would be either more likely or just more often to engage in those practices that are out there stated as best practice? So multi tiered systems of support or collaboration, anything like that, so that they would be more likely than those under that caseload model.


Jayson Davies

Gotcha. Okay. And then so how did you develop your questions that you were going to send out to OTs, based upon that hypothesis and your literature review?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, so I looked at, there's been a few surveys done, and either on caseload workload or just kind of perceptions of various educational staff and their perceptions of OT so I just kind of looked at all of those, and took some similar components, and also some different components more geared toward the caseload workload, I also have several mentors that helped me kind of fit that know a little bit more about the school based practice, since I'm obviously not working in it yet. And they kind of know what's going on in our State of Arkansas. And so they kind of helped me fine tune those questions and kind of what, what we were trying to get at with that hypothesis.


Jayson Davies

So would you mind sharing a few of those questions that you actually were able to include in in the questionnaire?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, so I the ones related to the caseload workload? Well, first, I did have a few demographical type questions, you know, where do you practice? And then the model of employment? Because I think that can kind of play into it. So are you contracted? Or are you directly employed? And then obviously, do you feel like you're under a caseload approach or workload approach? So then kind of looking at that caseload or workload approach? I asked about their, the effect of that on their practice. Do they feel like they're able to meet all of their demands in their workplace? And then have they ever advocated to their administration for that model? So kind of thinking, like if they're in that workload model, was it because they advocated or not. And then they're just also they're competent in what they felt like their competence was in advocating, as well as the level of support they feel they have from their administration. And then also looking at those best practices I just asked either some form of have you, do you? Or how often do you do these certain practices? So that was like collaborative goal writing, collaborating with teachers providing professional development. Are you involved in school wide support, so not just like the direct intervention with your IEP kids, but multi tiered systems of support, things like that, and then also contextually based practices. And one of the really good questions that kind of will show up in my results, when we talk about that I asked the practitioners to quantify with the percent their time spent weekly in several different practices that I listed out. So they put percentages of how much time they felt like during their week was split up among direct intervention, evaluations, screenings, collaboration, and a few others. So that was one that was ended up being very helpful question. And there were some other other questions, but those were kind of the main ones regarding the caseload workload differences.


Jayson Davies

Gotcha. Okay. And so let's talk a little bit about the population. Of course, that's always a part of the capstone or any sort of research, you got to talk about the population. So who ended up taking your surveys? How many responses? did you get back? What did that look like?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, so there were 92 responses started, and I ended up with 61, completed and submitted. So that's kind of how it goes with your online surveys, but it was still good. And being from Arkansas, and just the way I was able to kind of send out my survey, most of the responses were from Arkansas, it was about 55%. And then the other less than half was from around like 15 other states, but just kind of like anywhere from one to three respondents from those states. So the majority of our were from Arkansas, and then the majority were also caseload and less so of saying that they were under that workload model


Jayson Davies

And that was just a like a self identified I work caseload or I work workload, right.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah. So I kind of I defined it in the question. So I asked the question if they felt like they were under caseload or workload and then I said caseload refers to workload refers to and actually also had an unsure option in case they still... that wasn't enough for them to really identify themselves. And I only had six that said, unsure, so those were not included in all of data analysis.


Jayson Davies

Gotcha. Okay. Can I ask you actually how you defined caseload versus workload on there? You don't need to give me the exact terminology. But in general, how did you kind of word that?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, I believe it was something like caseload refers to only looking at the number of direct treatment sessions, or I may not have said direct treatment sessions, but kids on your caseload, the number of kids on your caseload, whereas workload encompasses all of the demands that you do on a weekly basis, something along those lines,


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. No, that's exactly what most of the resources that's kind of how they define it as well. So yeah, that's right.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yes.


Jayson Davies

Cool.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah.


Jayson Davies

And you said most of them were from Arkansas, fewer, or less than half are from outside? Did you have a majority OT, majority OTA, a mixture? Or was that not even a question asked?


Alexa Corley, OTD

I actually didn't ask that. Specifically. I, I included it and if they wanted to take the survey, it was open to either, but I didn't define it.


Jayson Davies

Okay. And then you said, Yeah, like you said, most of them were Arkansas, did you have? Did you ask for other demographics, such as age or anything like that?


Alexa Corley, OTD

I did ask for not age, but years of practice. And I kind of divvied that up with like 1 to 5, 6 to 10 and 15 and up or something like that. And I believe I don't want to lie, but I can I can. This will be on my research, as we talk about later, but I believe most of them were that 15 and up.


Jayson Davies

Oh, wow. You actually had quite a few experience therapists?


Alexa Corley, OTD

I believe so yes.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. You know what, one thing that you actually mentioned earlier, too, is that you ask people whether or not they were a district employee contractor, did that skew in one way? or the other or any shockers there.


Alexa Corley, OTD

There were actually more people directly employed than I would have thought especially considering more people also said they were caseload approach. I guess in my brain, I was thinking, if you're directly employed, hopefully you've kind of are trying to move to that workload model approach. But that didn't necessarily correlate yet. So that was a little bit surprising, but still good that there were more directly employed than I would have thought.


Jayson Davies

Gotcha. Well, that's nice. I mean, I know being directly employed or being a contractor is very regional based, it really depends on where you are. I know talking from some therapists in New York, that like almost everyone is a contracted therapist, versus I'm in California. And a lot of districts are starting to hire now, their own OTs, I think, a few years ago is a lot of contractors. But now districts are really trying to hire their own therapist. And I think there's so many factors related to that. I mean, what the district considers a caseload or workload, obviously factors into that, what the pay scale is for an occupational therapist, and that general area also contributes to whether or not a district decides to hire their own or, or outside. Unfortunately, I think districts also take into account whether or not that person will be a part of a union or not, or things like that. It's HR and hiring practices are way beyond my scope of understanding. But there's so many variables that that are considered considered with that. And so it's kind of nice to hear that it sounds like you're saying in Arkansas, that more OTs are employed directly by a district or a county of education or something like that. Is that what it seemed like?


Alexa Corley, OTD

It seems like maybe with my survey, now, I'm not sure you know, depending on who took it, maybe they were just the ones that happen to be more likely, because also in Arkansas, we just have a lot of small rural districts too. And so that's kind of a conversation I've had with my mentor, and just some other, you know, educational staff that we probably will never not have the need. And like you said, by region, it really just depends on never not have the need for that contract model just with the smaller schools and the needs. So it's just interesting, I guess, maybe just with my survey, they just happen to be more of them than if it were directly employed. So I'm not really sure about the state of Arkansas, cuz like I said, we do have a lot of smaller districts. So it's interesting.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, in the smaller districts, they don't have a need for 40 hours a week. And so right, you might have a therapist split between five different districts and then oh, bless, then you have to drive like an hour in between school districts every day is it's crazy.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah.


Jayson Davies

All right. So let's get into some of your results then. What was your overarching finding those kind of the biggest thing for you?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, so I got to To run all of the fun statistical analysis, and there were some, you know, statistically significant differences between the caseload workload groups, and some of those variables, you know, from the questions I asked. So one of the things which I didn't mention this as a question I asked earlier, but this was something my mentor and I talked about, I asked them if they were members of professional learning communities, or PLCs. And the results of that showed that in a workload model, they were more likely to be members of that PLC than in the caseload model. And that just said to me, you know, they're more they're more a part of the school community, that they're being engaged in more of those collaborative processes with other educators. And like I said, Yeah, just seen as part of the school community. So that was just kind of an additional question I asked that gave a little bit of insight about the collaborative process. And then as far as those best practices I mentioned earlier, and how much time is spent in those activities? Like in that one question. practitioners in the workload model, spent more time engaging in collaboration with teachers. So that was one of those variables, providing behavioral supports, and consulting with family. So those three variables from the percentage question that I mentioned earlier, workload model lends itself better to those. And then they also spent more of their treatment hours with those contextually based services. They reported more time with that, which is one of those evidence based practices, there's continuing education articles about that. And also just the way that IDEA spells out the least restrictive environment, you know, being supportive of that. So that was a good finding there. And then workload model practitioners also reported spending less time in just the direct intervention category, compared to the workload or the excuse me the caseload model. So on that percentage question, I asked how much time they thought they spent in direct intervention. And the caseload model practitioners, that mean reported there was higher for for those caseload practitioners than the workload practitioners. Does that make sense there?


Jayson Davies

Yeah. So they were spending more time with direct therapy, potentially one to one or small group, as opposed to the workload therapists who reported using a workload model. Were getting into the classrooms more and helping the teachers collaborate a little bit more, it sounds like,


Alexa Corley, OTD

exactly, yeah. So that's kind of what that was telling me too, that was an important because they're not just spending time, you know, there's always going to be the kids that you do need that direct intervention services, but IDEA and ESA, and all of those things also tell us we can be a part of prevention services and school wide supports, and educating staff and all of that. And so the way that the workload model practitioners, their time was split up was more distributed to all of those things, rather than caseload being mostly distributed to that direct intervention.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. Love that you found that.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, yeah. So the open responses, I also had just some open response questions that I didn't, you know, specifically analyze in, I just kind of looked at myself and kind of coded myself. So they, the workload model practitioners also just describe, they use a lot of words talking about flexibility and being... having an easier time with scheduling and adjusting their staff. And then the caseload model practitioners reported a lot of things like, not enough time scheduling is too hard. We can't they don't understand pushin services, we can't do this, and this and this. And so it was a lot more negative terms, kind of with those open responses. Whereas the workload, people kind of talked more about flexibility and being able to maybe easier, more meet those demands that we've been talking about all those different practices.


Jayson Davies

That's awesome. I think I see. I mean, I've never done research on it. But just in my clinical practice, I've seen similar type of attitudes. I feel like, you know, a lot of people feel like they're restricted by case loads. I mean, I've had conversations with a lot of administrators and it's more like, well, this is why everything needs to be an individual pullout, or even small group is because it comes from a model where the schools get reimbursed for that. And, you know, we are told that we are not supposed to base our treatment recommendations based upon insurance or any type of reimbursement. And there's a huge disconnect there because we're being told one thing by our district, potentially And then doing another thing, and or we're doing what our district is, is telling us to do simply because of that, that one payment reason. And a lot of times administrators don't know that another way can happen. And that's a barrier to because there are OTs, they want to make the switch. But obviously, it's difficult for them. I actually want to dive into this next part, because you haven't mentioned this yet. But I know you have like a whole other aspect. I know, it's a small aspect. But you actually went beyond just talking to OTs, right?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, I did. So kind of while my survey was, you know, just out getting responses, I had some meetings with different school staff. So I was able to meet with some special education directors and some school based OTs, and just kind of go a little bit deeper, just for my personal learning about what school OT looks like. And various districts in Arkansas, I kind of tried to meet with different districts, you know, in various areas of the state, because like, we've talked about regions, it can be different. I just know, in Arkansas, we've got several places where things are kind of changing. And other, you know, smaller districts, like we talked about, where they still kind of need some education there. And so I was able to meet with those people over just over some zoom meetings. And I met with the sped directors and OTs, from two different districts that are already kind of using that workload model approach to services, and they're doing some great things. And so at each of those schools, I was able to talk to the sped director and the OT from from each of them. So I got both perspectives. And so those two districts kind of talked about their transition process to the workload model. And for both of them, it came from a bit higher up in the chain. So for one of them, she talked about the sped director talked about their superintendents being the ones who gained some sort of information, I'm not sure specifically what that information was or where it came from, but some information from the state level, and brought that change brought that information into their school district of hiring their OT directly, and implementing them into more school wide supports, and like social emotional learning programs, kind of allowing them to head that up. So that's really awesome for them, and they're still, you know, their culture is just kind of always what can they do to be better to be better for the kids. And so they're, they're still doing some great things. And then the other district, I also talked to the sped director, and it wasn't this particular director that had spearheaded the change, but he knew about it and kind of came in in the middle of it. And he told me that for their district, it was the sped director who kind of did the same thing, he came across some information from his higher ups, I guess, and realized that they needed to do some things differently. So they hired their OTs directly, and began transitioning to that more school based workload approach. Now in that conversation, what I found interesting was that he knew that it would take a few years, and he told his staff and his OTs, like, this is gonna take three years, give it three years to get this, you know, more fully implemented, where the teachers know what's going on. And everyone's kind of educated more about what OT can do. And now they have this past year, they implemented some RTI groups. And we're even, you know, taking data on that, which is awesome. That's kind of, you know, another piece, I think that we need to be doing, keeping that data and following up to show the improvements. And you know, really what OT the benefits of OT and being a part of those processes. So those were kind of the workload districts now the other, I think it was two or three districts I talked with, we're not even really familiar with those terms, caseload and workload, which is a bit more of what I expected. So especially with OT and RTI, like I mentioned that a few times, and they were like, no, that's not really a thing here, and, and then I kind of gave some examples of what that would actually look like. And I remember one of them being like, Oh, yeah, I guess that would work. So you mean, like more schoolwide and like education? And I was like, yeah, we can do that. And so the, you know, it's kind of some discussion and education, you know, I wasn't stepping on any toes, but I was just trying to kind of get some thoughts rolling and was able to do that with those districts that weren't as familiar with it. So just from those overall, just kind of the education and advocacy piece that kind of needs to be get going to kind of get everyone on the same page, if that makes sense.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And at those districts, were you still talking to a director of special education or was a principal or what? Who were you talking to those ones?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, those were still the special education directors, I tried to get in touch with principals and superintendents at some of the schools and just it wasn't able to kind of plan those out with them. They're a little busier, I guess. So that didn't get to work out. But the other conversations are great.


Jayson Davies

Whenyou were talking to the special ed directors, how familiar with even occupational therapy did they seem?


Alexa Corley, OTD

So they actually did seem pretty familiar with OT, and what they were doing, and even complimented their OTs and some of the things they did. And so I think they were trying to do, you know, do some of the, you know, quote, best practices, and they were doing good things, for sure. But I think just not quite understanding the full school based model. And I think if you don't really even understand that fully, then it's kind of hard to go to the caseload to workload transition, if you're not even sure about what OTs role is in the school, you know.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. But that's awesome that you at least got a general idea that they understood OT, I think by time you get to a special ed, Director type of position, you've been a special education teacher, likely, you've might have been an RSP teacher, or maybe a teacher in a more severe needs. And you might have even been a coordinator something in special education, and you probably have had to work with some occupational therapists over the years. So that's nice that they at least seemed like they understood OT because I've talked to people and their boss, who might be a coordinator, the director of OT of the occupational therapist, they really don't understand their job. And it's unfortunate when you hear that, so I'm glad that these people kind of seemed like they knew what what occupational therapy was.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, for sure.


Jayson Davies

What would you say are kind of, we'll get to the point where we're starting to wrap up a little bit. But what do you think are your overall key takeaways? You know, you're about to head into your career as an occupational therapist, potentially, in the schools. What were some of your key takeaways from this?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, I would say the main thing is that just the need for the wider education on a piece roll in school, like school wide, like those teachers, perceptions, and even across the state. So I also asked an open response question in my survey about the barriers and challenges to school based OT, which I had seen in previous surveys, but just kind of wanted to know, just kind of wanted to ask it again, and about half of the responses mentioned that the people in their school don't know what OT does. So that's just still like the main kind of thing that matches the previous study. So I think if there was just some guidance, or education kind of from that top down level, that will be helpful, especially like those two districts. As an example, you know, they started that change with the superintendents, or the sped directors, and so kind of that top down, change. But then also, I think, you know, OTs themselves needing some resources on how to explain the transition, and practically applying their advocacy skills and, and describing, you know, what they can do in the schools. And so, you know, at that district that said, it takes three years to fully implement with both encouraging and discouraging, you know, that it would have to take so long, but also, maybe there are more people trying to transition to that, and it just takes a while. So you know, change, good change, all that takes time. So I think just those education and advocacy pieces, and also just, you know, we talked a lot about my literature review, just the importance of doing and reading research, I think is important too. And that's something I've definitely taken away from this Capstone.


Jayson Davies

That's amazing. And that is a lifelong skill, right? There's understanding that you need to read the research, you need to stay up to date with AOTA or sorry, well, AOTA gets you a job. So if you stay up to date to AOTA you get access to Asia, and you also get access to other research as well, the Canadian Journal of OT and yeah, there's so many good journals out there. I know you created some resources. But first, I want to ask you go back to those interviews that you had with occupational therapists. How did they describe the transition? I know, it was long, three years, potentially. But what did they think about the transition?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, they were pretty much they were mostly positive about it. I mean, they've, they were on board with it, too. You know, I think I also talked to some contract based OTs that, you know, they liked that model, and they which like we said, you know, it's needed that they kind of liked their being able to just go in for the day and leave when they you know, got to leave and not not that that's a bad thing. But the ones that were kind of transitioning with that workload model, you know, they kind of they wanted that change and they put the work in for it and helps to educate the teachers and you know, we're all positive about how that has helped their school. You know, kind of talking about the results of their RTI groups they implemented or the social emotional learning programs when I talked to did like some yoga things in the classrooms and just all the positive results from that. So they definitely said that it was worth the three year wait or, you know, however long it took for that to fully implement.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, and you know, I'm sure you know, you're one, maybe they did a little bit of push in for one or two classes. And then the next year, those two classes turned into four classes. And then by year three, you're surprised by how quickly you can go from pulling students out every 30 minutes to instead of pulling them out, you know, you can see, maybe three of your kids are all in one classroom. And instead of pulling them out 30 minutes each, which adds up to 90 minutes. You just went into that classroom for an hour instead. And you were able to help them all, despite not pulling them out individually. So there's so much you can do.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah.


Jayson Davies

All right. So based upon all of this, I know what the capstone, yes, you do some research, but typically, there's another side to it something that you're actually acting on doing based upon your research. So what is it that you're doing, obviously, an awesome podcast, but that's not even part of your your Capstone, by the way, everyone listening out there, but what are you actually what what is the back end of this project? What are you doing to further that caseload workload, gap or momentum that we have?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah. So like you said, there is that other aspect of the capstone. So one of my goals was to create some sort of resource tool, based on my findings, and just all the information I've been looking through for the past four months, I don't even know how long. So just all the things I found during this experience that were helpful for me, and I will say a lot of that was from AOTA like, they really do have a lot for school based OT and just a job. So I definitely encourage people to be AOTA members, we've had to be through school. And I definitely think it's helpful. So I... back to my resource. So I created that this kind of resource tool just to be kind of just a culmination of, like I said, all the things I've found. So it's pretty simple. It's really just kind of my study findings. There's links to some fliers that I've created, there's links to my research manuscript. And just any kind of links, or any kind of programs I've found helpful, or looked through that are school based OT related. So I've just kind of included all that in one place, and then kind of put, you know, links in there to those different resources. And then I've also had the chance to create a presentation for OTs role in RTI processes, Response to Intervention processes. And so that's been fun to just dive in and learn more about that. And just kind of provide that as a tool for school based OTs. And hopefully, that will be kind of published soon, I'm working with my mentor to put that she works at Easter Seals and kind of put that out there for people to have. And that will be linked in my resource tool, too. So yeah, that's kind of what I have done to culminate all of this.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. And so I have to ask you, obviously, is that available that people can access your your resources?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yes. So I went ahead and made a website. So every thing and everything I've done related to this can kind of be found in that one spot. And so some of it's still being finalized and the final touches, but as soon as it's ready, it'll be on there. And it's just my name. It's alexancorley.com. I'll spell that out. A-L-E-X-A, the letter N Corley C-O-R-L-E-Y.com.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. And we of course, will be sure to add that link in the show notes so that anyone can find it for the future. Awesome, perfect. Well, I am excited to also check that out, I gotta be sure to get on there and find what you got on there. For anyone listening, Alexa obviously already knows this, because I'm gonna tell the story about how Alexa and myself came to actually doing this podcast. Alexa, I gotta thank you, because you found out I am in the process of creating a course for school based OTs that just kind of that how to transition from a caseload to a workload model. And you just decided to send me a blind email basically, and say, Hey, I'm doing my capstone on this. And I would love to kind of just share what I have and help in any way. And so I really want to just say thank you so much. I really appreciate you reaching out and just being open to talk about this because this is something that's so important for school based OTs, and I don't know that everyone realizes yet how important it is. I think it is. It's going to be so beneficial, not only for us as a profession, but also helpful for the students that we serve the teachers that we serve and the districts that we serve. I really think that we have more to provide than a pullout model caseload every 30 minute sessions, and I really do think that it's important that we make that transition to a workload where we can get out of those pullout model sessions and really get embedded into the classrooms. And, and helping teachers because if you pull out a kid, you can only see that kid for 30 minutes, maybe once a week. But if you are able to use that same 30 minutes to teach a teacher, something new, that teacher is going to teach 30 kids this year, 30 Kids next year, 30 kids the year after that, and touch so many more lives, that you would ever be able to help if you don't teach that teacher that one lesson. So I think that is so valuable. And yeah, I just really appreciate you coming on here. And I really appreciate the the research that you that you did.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for being so responsive. And just excuse me, all that you do with your podcast and the school based OT resources, I think I've listened to like half of them just in doing my just kind of learning and doing my capstone. And so yeah, I agree with all of that you said and I know how it worked in school based OT yet, but I had so much fun learning and doing this research, and so I can't wait to hopefully be in the schools in the future.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, definitely. And you know, whatever school district whatever contractor you end up working with straight out of school, they will be very lucky to have you just having someone that understands what school based OT is, even before jumping into it. I mean, just knowing that you know what IEP stands for Ida those things, you know, that's so that's so valuable as a school based OT one final question, I guess for you is, is that the route? Do you think you're going to end up trying to find a job in school based OT after school? Or what are you thinking?


Alexa Corley, OTD

So honestly, at this point, I'm not super Sure, just with the timing of you know, graduation is in August, and then have to study for NBC OT, and just kind of what I've seen that's available right now in our console. I don't know if that'll be the immediate route. But definitely in the future. That's, that's where I'm headed. Even if I have to get some experience somewhere else at first. Yeah, I'm definitely headed for the schools in the future.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, definitely. And you know, I add a school out of occupational therapy school, I got lucky, I found a contract gig. And I got very lucky, it was a contract gig. But like you were talking about, I was really, I clocked in and clocked out. I didn't have to build every single session for that we were really basically a part of that school. And so we felt as though we were employed by the school, even though we weren't it felt that way, and very lucky to have that. But a lot of times, it may be easier to get a job with a contractor, get that experience and then move into a district. And so of course, I want to I want to wish you the best of luck with that. And the last thing that I have to ask is research never happens in a bubble and never happens all on your own. So is there anyone that you'd like to shout out for their support or for helping you out?


Alexa Corley, OTD

Absolutely. I had three mentors for this project. My faculty mentor at UCA was Dr. Chris Ryan, and then my expert mentors just kind of in the field were Jessica Cruz, and then Dr. Amanda Britt. So Dr. Ryan is like I said faculty at UCA, he just kind of made sure I was on track doing what I needed to do. Jessica is she was a school based OT now she's a school based OT consultant. So she had tons of expertise to offer me. And then Amanda has previous experience as a superintendent. So I got her perspective on that area and her, you know, perspective on OTs in schools and making that transition, she had experience with that as well. So I got all of their perspectives and feedback throughout this process. And just definitely want to say thank you to all of them for their help.


Jayson Davies

Definitely. Well, Alexa, it has been so nice to have you on. Thank you for sharing everything that you did for the school based OT community with us.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Yeah, thank you for having me. It's so fun.


Jayson Davies

All right, well, we will have to stay in touch because I'm sure you have more great things coming up in your future with school based OT. So please feel free to reach out anytime, if you ever need anything. All right.


Alexa Corley, OTD

Awesome. Thank you so much.


Jayson Davies

Alright, I hope you all really enjoyed that discussion with Alexa Corley. Everything that she's doing is just for the betterment of school based OT In my opinion, I really think that we do need to move from that caseload to a more workload approach. And I'm so glad that she took in the perspective from people outside the role of OT from the administrators or whatnot. That is just awesome. Be sure to check out the show notes so you can find her website and get those resources she was talking about. And yeah, one more time. Thank you so much to Alexa for coming on sharing everything that she did. And thank you, to you for listening to this episode. Really appreciate it. I could not do this if no one listened to the podcast. So I love that you're here. I love that you are continuing to learn. And I love that you want to learn so that you can better serve your students and the teachers you work with. Take care and I'll see you next time. on the podcast. Bye.


Amazing Narrator

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





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