OTS 88: Changing the Face of School OT Feat. Jaime Spencer, MS, OTR/L

OT School House Podcast Episode 72 journal club how much of school is fine motor anyways?

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Welcome to the show notes for Episode 88 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast.

School-based Occupational therapists have been a part of public education since legislation was initially enacted in the 1970’s. Contrary to this, school-based OT practitioners often do not have pathways to educational leadership. OT practitioners are unable to serve as administrators within a school system in 46 states in the United States.

In this special episode of the OTS Podcast, we will explore the unique qualities that OT practitioners possess that support leadership roles within a school system. Barriers to advancing into leadership positions (e.g., policy) OT practitioners’ face will be identified, and solutions will be discussed.

The Audio in this episode comes from a 2021 presentation prepared for the Occupational Therapy Association of California Annual Conference. It is presented by Jayson Davies, MA, OTR/L, & Jaime Spencer, MS, OTR/L.

You can listen to the audio version above or on your preferred podcast player. You may watch the presentation below.

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OTSH Episode 88 Slides
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OTS 88_ Changing the Face of School OT Feat. Jaime Spencer, MS, OTR_L.docx
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Jayson Davies

Hey there, and welcome back to another episode of the OT Schoolhouse podcast. This is the final episode of 2021. And I cannot be more excited to have you here with me today. This is episode 88. And like I said, it's the final episode of 2021. I can't wait to come back in 2022 refreshed after a little winter break and come back hitting the ground running again, with the OT Schoolhouse podcast. It's been so much fun over the last few years putting this podcast together, we've had so many great guests, we've shared so many good stories together. And I'm just excited to continue this down the road. But for today in Episode 88, I am actually going to share with you a very special presentation that I and Jaime Spencer, from missjaimeot.com, put together for a recent conference here in California. It was the Occupational Therapy Association of California annual conference. And she and I put this presentation again about why they've put this presentation together about why occupational therapists should be credentialed within the schools. Some people think it's only because it would give us an opportunity to advance our leadership within the school system. But that is not the only benefit. In fact, there are benefits beyond that that will support the students that we work with. And so it's very important that at least again, myself and Jamie believe that we should be credentialed in the schools. Some states have already done this, but not every state. So if you're ready to kind of stick around and hear our reasoning about it, and potentially how to move forward with doing this, I encourage you to stick around and listen in. Jaime comes to us from New York, and obviously, I'm in California, we presented this in California. So it is somewhat California-specific. But she adds in some New York components. And we also tried to make sure that we add in some national components that it doesn't matter what state you're in, you're going to benefit from this as well. If you'd like to see the full visual presentation of this, we actually did record it and you can watch it at otschoolhouse.com/episode88. You're going to hear that same content, it's going to be a little more edited here. But you will see the same content at otchoolhouse.com/episode88. You'll just see all the slides and whatnot. As we are presenting so you can listen here or go watch it over there. Either way works or you can do both whatever complements your learning style. So stick around or head over to otschoolhouse.com/episode88 to hear this presentation that I and Jaime Spencer from Miss Jaime OT did together to promote occupational therapy within the schools. I hope you enjoy this special presentation

Jaime Spencer

Changing the face of school OT in California. Today we're going to talk about what's going on in the California Department of Education and how it's impacting school-based occupational therapy practitioners. My name is Jaime Spencer and I'm presenting today with my friend Jayson Davies. I've been a school-based occupational therapist for 22 years. I have a bachelor's in occupational therapy and a master's in special ed. I am a passionate advocate for school-based occupational therapists. I have a website and a blog at Miss Jaime OT where I help other therapists and other grownups to help their kids. It's really important to me to advocate for the value of school-based occupational therapy practitioners. I'm also doing research at Toro College of Health Sciences about occupational therapists and advocacy and leadership.

Jayson Davies

All right, and that brings me to me, my name is Jayson Davies and I am an Occupational Therapist here in Southern California. And I'd like to say that I am a school-based occupational therapist. I've been in the schools for about nine years now ever since I graduated from occupational therapy school at USC in 2012. And I just happened to fall into school-based OT and yeah, I just love being a part of that role. I did get my master's in occupational or occupational therapy at USC, and I am the host of the OT Schoolhouse podcast, where we talk about all things school-based occupational therapy. I'm also an adjunct thesis advisor for Stanford University and a mentor to OT practitioners. Today, we're going to go over three very specific items. We're going to summarize how the structure of California Department of Education systems impacts parity for school-based OTs. We're also going to identify three opportunities for school-based OT practitioners to showcase leadership, and then we're going to talk about how to apply these concepts to advocacy for school-based occupational therapists. So to get started, we have a question for you. If you had the power to change one thing at your school sites, what would it be? What about money? Would you like more pay or maybe a budget for your therapy supplies? That could be one of those things that you might want?

Jaime Spencer


Jayson Davies

Would you like to have more collaboration and a sense of belonging on campus to feel like you actually are part of the teachers union maybe or that you feel like you can go into the lunchroom and sit there and talk with everyone and be a part of that and have friends there? I mean, I'm not saying you can't do that. But maybe that's something that you might want. Some people just want to be a part of the Parent-Teacher Association and feel welcome there, that's perfectly fine. Maybe you don't want to be known as the handwriting teacher. Oftentimes, as school-based occupational therapists, we do work on fine motor skills. But sometimes it goes further than that. And we start to get referrals only for handwriting. And we're only known as the handwriting teacher, or the handwriting coach, maybe you want to be more than that. Maybe you want to be a leader on your campus, whether it is an official title of being a leader, or even in a commodity sense, you know, just being a leader, being able to coach the teachers provide professional development for the teachers, that's something that you might want. And then finally, maybe you just want to climb the ladder, and you want more opportunities to increase your pay, but also increase your leadership and your role within your school district.

Jaime Spencer

So Jayson, in my school, all of the teachers wear red on Thursdays, they're all on the same Union. But I don't get the shirt, because I'm not included in the teachers union. So while all of my colleagues are wonderful, and you know, we have a great rapport, I've been in the building for 22 years, there are a lot of things that I'm excluded from because I'm not in that union. So for example, I'm not included, or I'm not actually forced, or expected to be at their professional development meeting. And, you know, I've heard before leaders will say to me, "Oh, well, you're welcome to attend." Okay, but I'm not being paid to attend, and the teachers are being paid to a time. So I can't, I don't feel that I should be volunteering my time when everybody else is being paid for that time. So I'm a little bit of a stickler about it, because I think that leaders need to recognize that we need to be included in these things. And so I made this faculty picture because I don't have the red shirt. And it's something that is really important to me, I feel excluded at my school. And it's very easy to become cynical or frustrated in situations like that. But you have to ask yourself, rather than getting angry, and really being frustrated by the slow pace of change in things, we have to look at it in a positive light of how can we help?

Jayson Davies

Absolutely. And if I can just add to that really quickly. You know, in California, we're oftentimes we're considered classified management, certificated, management, whatever it might be. And that kind of puts us in a weird spot, because we don't really have people that work under us that we manage. We work alongside our certified occupational therapy assistants, but we definitely don't manage them. We are not the ones who evaluate our certified OT assistants. But at the same time, we're also not really being managed like a teacher would be. They're not managers, they're teachers. And so as occupational therapists in the schools as a classified or certificated management, we're kind of in this weird spot. So I definitely agree with you, Jaime.

Jaime Spencer

Yeah, I mean, everybody in this faculty picture, speech, social work, psychologist guidance, they're all in the same unit. So they have all of these similar opportunities that I don't have, and it is frustrating.

Jayson Davies

Alright, so this is our first objective, and we're going to go over that we're going to summarize how the structure of the California Department of Education system impacts parity for school-based OT. So let's go. The first big question is what is educational credentialing? Well, educational credentialing is exactly what it sounds like those teachers, anyone who I shouldn't say anyone, because obviously, we don't have one. But most people on campus have some sort of education credentialing. And we have another slide that's going to list all those out for you. So I won't get into too much detail yet. I don't want to skip ahead of myself. But you have to have a teaching certificate or teaching credential in order to be a teacher in school. Being categorized as certificated also opens more doors for you as far as moving up to potentially be an administrator or whatnot. And we'll talk about that in a second. So who is educationally credentialed? Here, there are three different types of credentials within the state of California. We have our services credential, our classroom teachers, or just a teacher's credential, and then we have our school administrators. To get that school administrator credential, you actually have to have one of the two other credentials. So under your services credential, you see school counselors, school, social work, school sites, child welfare and attendance, speech pathologists, teachers, librarian, school nurses, clinical rehab services. That Clinical Rehabilitation Services is a really interesting one to me. I don't know how we don't fall into that. It's really funny how things work out. It's kind of like in Hamilton, you know, I want to be in the room where it happens. It's just like, OTs weren't at the table that day that they're discussing who should be a credential provider, I guess. But then under the classroom teachers, this is more what people are familiar with, right? You have your single subject and multiple subject teachers. Single-subject refers to those teachers that work in middle school or high school where they specifically teach English or they specifically teach math or history or whatever that might be multiple subjects, teachers are your general education, elementary school teachers, right? They teach everything the entire day that with the same group of kids, and they teach it all. An education specialist is actually broken down into different levels. So your RSP, your resource specialist t