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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.


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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

Definitely.


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 teacher, they have an Education Specialist credential for mild to moderate students. And then you have your mild to moderate STC teacher. But then when you get to your severe to mod classification, that's a different credential for that specific population. But it's still an Education Specialist credential. You have Career Technical and Adult Education, as well as adapted physical education teachers, they are also credentialed under that classroom teachers. That moves over to the school administrator's credential. And again, this is a separate credential that tries to word this the best way possible. My wife actually just got this, she's now an assistant principal, but she had to be a teacher first, for about five years before she could even apply to get her school administrator credential. And so she actually had to have that teaching credential. And a fun fact here, actually, because while she was applying for this, you know, I've been to School-Based OT for nine years at the time, I had been a school-based OT for about five years. And just for the fun of it, I was actually asking questions while she was applying. I was asking the college I was like, "Hey, can I can I go through the program with you?" And actually, asked them this? Because they're like, "do you have potential?" Like, "No, but I've worked in the schools for five years, I'm a licensed occupational therapist." And they're like, "No, you don't have a teaching credential." And I wasn't really planning on going through with it. But I just wanted to see what they would say. And if there's any roundabout way to do it, it wasn't the case.


Jaime Spencer

I actually had the same exact experience. Jayson, I wanted to when I was going back to get my master's, I wanted to get my Master's in School Administration. And when I started applying to all the programs, I couldn't believe when I was getting rejection letters, I was like, I was just shocked. And I wrote a letter to the New York State Education Department. And they wrote me back and said, "You're not considered pedagogical, which basically means you're not a teacher, your all of your time in the school doesn't count." And I even had people say to me, "Well, you're not in the classroom." And I want to say, "Okay, well, the gym teacher is not in the classroom. The social worker is not in the classroom, the psychologist is not in the classroom. But they're all eligible to advance, but not me because I'm an OT." And that, I think, is how this whole advocacy passion of mine started. So these are the people that are not educationally credentialed in California. And it's very, very similar to where I'm from in New York, updates to federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, states that OTs and physical therapists should be involved in the multi-tier system supports, RTI programs, and positive behavior support programs. But what the law has recommended hasn't really caught up to what's going on. So we could ask ourselves why. And it's because the decision-makers don't really know how valuable we are, we haven't had the chance to show them because we're very often not at the table. We are now in this category with bus drivers and paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, and school clerks. And all of those people are crucial to the school running smoothly and keeping our children safe and getting them to and from their education. But these non-instructional staff members, don't work on the child's education, they don't work on the child's educational goals. They're not a part of educating the students and helping them access their curriculum. And I hate to say it, but being in the same category as people who don't need the education to do their job gives us a stigma of inferiority. So we're almost treated as less them which is why probably we're often not in the same unions and not included in the continuing education programs that are provided for what they call teachers. So in California, instructional staff like occupational therapy professionals, physical therapists, BCBAs, and vision therapists, even though we are instructional, we are not considered educationally credentialed.


Jayson Davies

So Jaime, before we move on, I actually want to ask you a question because in your about me slide you had your master's in special education, right?


Jaime Spencer

Yes.


Jayson Davies

So why did you do that? And did that help you at all?


Jaime Spencer

Well, when I graduated from occupational therapy school, I was like one of the very last classes that were permitted to get a bachelor's. So as soon as I was in the field, everyone else was coming out with a master's degree. And I thought that, in my journey at the school district, I was working that we would eventually be hiring more occupational therapists. So I wanted to have a Master's so that if an opportunity came up, I could be the supervisor and have a supervisory position. And I felt that if new therapists were coming on, and they had more education than me, it might not like automatically be my position. So I just thought, you know, I want to get I love to learn, I want to get my master's, I wanted to get it in school administration, but I was not allowed. So I chose special education because I thought that it would, at least, you know, supplement what I'm doing with the schools. And no, it didn't help me. It gave me a lot of student loans. And I received a teeny tiny stipend from my school district, if I was in the teachers union, my pay increase would have been very substantial. But because I am not in the teachers union, I'm in the CSEA. In New York, we are called the CSEA more civil service employees. And I'm in the same union with the bus drivers and the lunch ladies and administrative assistants. So I got my master's in special ed, but I'm still paying it off, to be honest with you, Jason, and it hasn't done anything for me, which is a shame, because I got my master's in special ed. But I didn't go a little bit further to do the student teaching and become a teacher, because it wouldn't really have helped me I would have had to leave the field of occupational therapy and be a classroom teacher for three years. And then I would be allowed to be an administrator. And I was I said, Absolutely not. I want to be an administrator as an OT, not as a classroom teacher.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely.


Jaime Spencer

And that's a position. That's what a lot of us are in that position, unfortunately,


Jayson Davies

Yeah, I've considered doing the same thing. But I've come to the same conclusion that you ultimately did was that you know, it would take me about eight years to eventually get to the point where I could go and get an administrative credential after starting the initial special education program, I just, and you have to work for free like you're saying, you have to be you when you do your student teaching, you're basically working for free. And yeah, I can't afford that.


Jaime Spencer

So it's just silly, it's backward. And Federal law says that we should be involved on a school level SS says, OTs and PTs should be involved, just like everybody else, but we're not. And it's because of this categorical exclusion of us from the educational category.


Jayson Davies

Alright, and that brings us to the next slide, which I think we've kind of gone over. But Jamie, if you want to add a little bit more, go for it.


Jaime Spencer

Right. So in order to become an administrator, you can either be a pupil personnel provider, which is listed here speech and language counselors, librarians, you could be considered a pupil personnel employee, or you could be considered a classroom teacher, either one of those categories is allowed to take the coursework to get their school building leader certificate, which would be a principal might be an assistant principal, or a chair, person, any kind of administrative position on the first level would be a school building leader. And you have to be a school building leader in order to then go on and get your school district leader certificate, which would be an assistant superintendent or a superintendent position high up. So you can see that all of the people on the left are eligible if they wish to move forward and to progress to a superintendent position. But occupational therapy practitioners and physical therapists are not even on the list. We have no way of really influencing the entire school district with all of the wonderful knowledge that we have, we really do have a unique knowledge base and background and a way of thinking outside the box to help people and we can't use that to influence the school districts.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, in California, just to clarify, for those watching, I know most of you are in California, there are not two separate certificates for the school building, and then school district leader. It's all just under that administrative credential. But either way, we can't. Can't get it here in California. So


Jaime Spencer

right and but also in general, you wouldn't go from being a classroom teacher to being the superintendent you need, you know, it's a stepping stone.


Jayson Davies

Yes.


Jaime Spencer

Yeah, that experience for sure.


Jayson Davies

Speaking of stepping stones, we've got a ladder picture for you.


Jaime Spencer

So this is one of my favorite cartoons. And it just really showcases the career path that's available for occupational therapy practitioners within the school setting. All of the educationally credentialed professionals that we just spoke about have the opportunity to advance themselves if they wish. But if we occupational therapy practitioners desire to move up the career ladder, we really don't have the opportunity, and it's just a shame. They have these opportunities which grant them the ability to create new programs that would benefit the staff, the children, the entire school community. And as they take the coursework to be an administrator or a leader, they move up in salary as well. And today, occupational and physical therapists do not have this opportunity. Because we don't have a teaching certificate, we are not allowed to take the coursework. This means that we are not permitted to become leaders. So the lead administrators in a school district have a lot of important decisions to meet. They meet to discuss the needs of the children, the staff, the whole community, they have to find how to fill weaknesses and fill voids that the district is experiencing. They have to decide about programs, curriculums budgets, the admins might be former teachers, social workers, or psychologists. And they're using their background knowledge and experience to do what's best for the school in their experience and their knowledge background. But right now, there's no occupational therapist at that table. So this is an enormous disservice to the school. And it really impacts therapists in many, many ways. There's no OT to offer solutions that showcase our training and our qualifications. We don't have the opportunity to contribute our opinions or ideas to earn the respect of other administrators and our colleagues. And this impacts the way we are viewed and valued by school administrators. And that means it impacts our parity. In a not-so-subtle way, we are often viewed and treated as inferior to other school professionals. OTs may be contracted instead of being hired directly, they report that they're not included in the professional development that the rest of the staff get, including the safety training, which is definitely a concern when it comes to the kids. We are separated from the rest of the professional staff and it creates a stigma of inferiority. OTs in California are retiring with fewer benefits than the rest of the staff. why? It's because there are no OTs at the leadership table. There's no OT to say, "Oh, don't forget to give the OTs and PTs a room to work in when you're adding on a hallway, maybe we can get them out of the hole or off the stage to do their job. Let's hire our own staff and include them in the collaboration meetings, so they know what's going on. Let's give the therapists time in their schedules to collaborate with the teachers. According to best practice, let's treat the therapist fairly." All of the complaints that OTPs have about inferior inferiority or inequality would be challenged by an OT seated at that table.


Jayson Davies

So back in wasn't too long ago, 2020. I know they updated every now and then. But this data is directly from the AOTA salary and workforce survey that they did. And they collect this data, you might have been part of this data collection. And they found that 23% of occupational therapy practitioners working in the USA work in school. So that's almost one in four OTs report, working in the schools, along with that 1/4 of occupational therapists also report working a second job. And, you know, that was kind of news to me, but I totally see it. I mean, a lot of OTs, work their school-based OT jobs, six, eight hours a day or whatever it might be. And then they hop over to a clinic, or they stop by a student's house or not a student but a child's house on the way home to provide some early intervention, or on the weekends, they're going into a clinic, or they're providing teletherapy services at another time. It's quite amazing. I know I've done that. I worked in the skilled nursing facility on the weekends. What about you?


Jaime Spencer

I've never had just one job. And it's actually really funny, Jayson and I presented at a conference last weekend about OT entrepreneurs, and I had all my badges ready. So I have a badge of working in a hospital and being a per diem, and I have a badge of working as a faculty member at a college, and I have a badge of being a contract therapist. And I'm missing two badges because I have the one from my first contract job as well as the one that I wear every day to my real job. But yes, you know, in order to feel stable financially, I needed to always have more than one job. And I think that that's sad because OTs work really hard for their degrees. And they work just as hard as the rest of the education, educational staff. So why don't we have the same opportunities for advancement? It's just not right.


Jayson Davies

And, you know, that is a perfect segway to maybe that is why 16% of occupational therapists are considering leaving the field of occupational therapy 30, or sorry, leaving the field, but 31% of that 16% I believe it was, are even just thinking about looking for a different field. They're not ready to retire. They're just considering moving out of occupational therapy. And you know, this is reflected in the data from AOTA but I know many of you that are watching this presentation, you're also in the Facebook groups, the school-based OT Facebook group, the resource Facebook group, all those. And I feel like it's once a week I see someone that just says, you know, I'm overwhelmed. I want to get out. What other career can I do with a master's in occupational therapy, they just want to get out. And they don't even want to consider potentially going to another occupational therapy site, you know, going to a hospital, or skilled nursing facility or something like that. They just don't feel like OT is right for them. And that's just really sad to see, you know, we're always trying to lift them up when we see something like that.


Jaime Spencer

Yeah, it really is a big cause of stress and burnout for people when you've consistently felt like you are not valued, or you're less than it's demeaning, you know, you feel disheartened. And again, for all your hard work and how you go to work every day, and you're you put in everything you've got for those kids, which is great. And you want to but you just want the respect.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And I'm going to go over this. But I also want to ask Jaime, her numbers. The median salary in California is 88,000 and 60000, respectively, for certified occupational therapy assistants. So 88, for OTs. 60, for OTAs. Jaime, why don't you share with us in New York, you know about what that split is?


Jaime Spencer

I'm not 100% positive of it. But I think it was about 75,000, which I know in California and New York, the cost of living here is is very extensive. And the problem for us in New York, and I know it's not exactly the same in California, but we make significantly less than the classroom teachers like, I'll just talk for my own example. I'm very, very lucky that I have a job as an employee within a school district, I'm not contracted. So I do have benefits and retirement and in summers off, and I'm very grateful about that. But what I'm very upset about is that the classroom teacher next to me, who started way after I did make $30,000 more than me. And that's because she's in that other union, where she's able to take courses and bump up herself on the salary scale. And if she wants to be an administrator, she can. But meanwhile, I'm the one providing. I'm actually one of the presenters at the new teacher in-service, I teach about special education. So here I am educating them, and they get credit for it, which gives them more money, but I am not allowed. And it makes me very much feel like a hamster on a wheel.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, if you've ever seen a teacher salary schedule, it takes up an entire page. Because there are columns, there are rows, and for OT, it tends to be five short rows, or maybe seven. So yeah, definitely some,


Jaime Spencer

which really means that you're you've hit your top pay at the age of 30. And you've got another 30 or 35 years to go. You know, and we'll think about how much the cat the cost of a home goes up, or the cost of milk or the cost of gas. But our salaries do not go up. In fact, fun facts for you. When I graduated in 1999, the half-hour pay rate when I, my first job I was a contract therapist, was $29 a half-hour. Or you know, one half-hour 30-minute session is $29. Today, 22 years later, it's like $34 a half-hour that the therapist Yes. I mean, it has barely inched up at all. But when I think like my, the price of gas, when I first bought my first car was like nothing, it was like suit $7 to fill my tank. And now it's $30. So just those little things. I mean, that impacts us, why aren't we having a nice big retirement fund so we can buy an extra house? You know,


Jayson Davies

Exactly. And so we do want to talk about how that those numbers that AOTA revealed? How does that impact the schools? And you know, it impacts the education system, it impacts the future of OT practitioners, it impacts teachers, how we are able to support our teachers. And of course, it impacts our students, our colleagues, and our profession. One of the things that I was thinking about, as Jaime was speaking a moment ago, was because we only have those five tiers, you know, we move up and after five years or seven years, we're already at our max pay. I went through this. And you know what, as soon as I got to that top, what did I start doing, I started looking for other jobs where I can move up. And so what does that mean? That means that I moved to a new position, and that district only has an OT for three or four years, right? And you know what's going to happen, whoever takes my job is going to be there for the five years, get to the top, and they're going to do the same thing because they're going to want to make more money. And so over time, you're going to end up having a new person to fill that position every four to five years.


Jaime Spencer

When you compare that to a classroom teacher, most of the time I'm gonna say 90% of the time when a classroom teacher gets a job in a district. That's it. They are there until they retire and they those people become their best friends and they're their family that they go through all the hardships and blessings of life with. But for us, we're very often in and out. And it's, it causes a high turnover, which not only impacts our ability to make changes on the system level but also to have a fulfilling job. Everyone wants to have friends at work and the ability to be respected by their colleagues. But if you're not there that long, it's hard to develop that.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And it also hurts the students as well, the teachers, because we all know it takes at least a year to kind of start building rapport with people. And then it takes another year to kind of go to the next level and start to build a rapport maybe with your, your administrator, your assistant principals across places, multiply that times, you know, you're at four different school sites, and you're trying to remember 80 Teachers names, and three or four administrators names that right, it takes time. And oftentimes, you know, we get to that point where we can actually make a change. And then we're like, hey, more money over there. Let me go over there.


Jaime Spencer

Yeah.


Jayson Davies

And so it impacts it trickles down and impacts the students all the way at the bottom because you're getting a new OT every four to five years, versus having someone consistently with them.



Jaime Spencer

And investing in someone, when they hire their teachers, they look at this person a little bit like a blank slate, and they train them they give them a mentor. In New York, I'm not sure if it's the same in California. But in New York, a new teacher is assigned an experienced teacher to mentor them. And the experienced teacher gets paid to do it. OTs, I mean often don't have another OT to even talk to much less someone to train them and supervise them. But the school looks at that teacher as a worthwhile investment, because they're going to be there for a long time. So they train them in the topics that are important so that they just are better and better and better highly qualified to teach the kids.


Jayson Davies

That's a very important point, actually, because teachers have to go through a program, I don't know if it's still called, I think they changed the name, but it used to be called Bitsa. And that's exactly what you were just referring to where they have to have a mentor. And I believe it's a year year and a half long, where they have to have a mentor. And they still have to do basically coursework. And they have to learn how to manage their classroom, while in the classroom, they have to do this program in order to clear their credential. And if they don't clear their credential, then they just went to school for two and a half years, or nothing. And so you have to go through that program where you clear your credential. Even administrators have to do that as well, once they get an administrative credential, they have to then clear that credential by working and going through a program while working. We don't have that as OTs, like Jaime was saying, you're lucky if you work in a district that has 5,6,7 OTs, and you have the opportunity to maybe go shadow them for your first day or two, before being thrown in all on your own at a school site, or for school sites. So absolutely.


Jaime Spencer

And with this high turnover, like you were saying it takes a long time to build a rapport and with all of the different buildings to see what kind of changes would really benefit the school district. But if you're not there for very long, if you haven't established respect and a rapport with the administrators, you can't make changes at the system's level, you can't make changes that would have an impact and benefit the entire school district because no one maybe knows who you are, or the big waves don't know who you are. And they haven't had the opportunity to value occupational therapy and our amazing input. They really don't know what it is that they're missing.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. And so this brings us to why now is the time for a change. Because there is a teacher shortage, there is an administrator shortage, and occupational therapists could help fill that void. And it's 2021. And 2019 is that resource that you see there under the teacher shortage, California State Teachers Retirement System, or CALSTERS, report a 26% increase in the number of teacher retirements in the second half of 2020. Compared with that same period in 2019. Obviously, 2020 was a very interesting year with COVID. And we know that COVID forced out a lot of teachers and forced out my mother-in-law. For some a lot of teachers, they just said, "Hey, I don't want to deal with technology. I don't have data for OTs, but I would imagine that there were some OTs that probably did the same thing. Because zoom was hard to navigate. Google Maps was hard to navigate. It was definitely hard to navigate when districts couldn't make up their mind of what platform they wanted us to use." And so I'm sure people did leave both teachers and occupational therapists, the administrator shortage, expected teaching staff shortage will increase the lack of administrators in the future. So because there is a chief teacher shortage, there will be an administrator shortage.


Jaime Spencer

Right because the pool of candidates is getting smaller and smaller. So if they were to allow occupational therapy practitioners and physical therapists to be in that category, they're expanding that pool. Another thing about why now is the time for change is the culture, there's a very big focus on equality and parity and treating, giving everybody equal opportunities not to be opportunistic. But we can kind of capitalize on that and show it's really almost discrimination discriminatory practices that we are now excluded. And maybe years and years ago before the laws evolved to treat us as equal. Maybe it was appropriate that we were kind of considered medical and we were in a different category. But now under the, Every Student Succeeds Act, we are educators and should be treated as such, therefore, we deserve parity. So parity basically means fairness, justice, being equitable, not being discriminated against not being treated as less than, and the words that you can use to go opposite, it would be bias prejudice, if you don't have parity, someone else has partiality. You are not having equity, and it's not okay. This cartoon is one of my favorites. So you see, the Occupational Therapy practitioner and the physical therapist are trying to get on the elevator and everybody else on that elevator is going up to the sixth floor, up up up to become an administrator, but OT and PT are not welcome. This is definitely not equity, this is not parity. All of the other school professionals are able to become leaders if they wish, if they desire, not that they have to, but they may. This furthers their career, their pay, and their ability to have an impact, they are able to showcase their skills in a way that impacts the whole school district. But OTs and PTs are excluded. So when we talk about discrimination, there is a history of discrimination in education. Back in the day, racial segregation of children in public schools was commonly accepted. Children with disabilities were not receiving the free and appropriate education. And children with disabilities were segregated. They were they, you know, there was no least restrictive environment, they were put totally in other schools, they didn't get to the mainstream with typically developing children at all. And there were limited funds, resources, and opportunities for females to play sports. So these are all instances of discrimination that were very, very common in the past, of course. So some of the discriminatory educational practices that need to be abolished now are that the California Department of Education does not consider school occupational physical therapists to be teachers or to be considered pedagogical, we are prohibited from taking the coursework to become a leader. So back in the day, it would be crazy to consider that. So nowadays, I'm sorry, nowadays, it would be crazy to consider that children with disabilities or children who are considered minorities would be separate. That would be, you know, out of the unbelievable. Okay. Campbell, it's unbelievable that that used to be commonly accepted. And that's how it was, we are hoping that it's going to be considered unbelievable, that OTs and PTs were once not allowed to be leaders.


Jayson Davies

And as I mentioned earlier, you know, we just want to see that the table, we want to be in the room where it happens. And AOTA’s 2025 vision states that we envision that occupational therapy is a powerful, widely recognized science-driven, and evidence-based profession with a globally connected and diverse workforce. Meeting society's occupational needs, this is from surely Chris Holm. And as part of that whole vision, that 2025 vision from AOTA and just shows how much that we have the ability to be impactful. All we need to do is step up to the plate or be allowed to step up to the plate. And so we need to advocate for ourselves. And that's what we're going to talk about here as we move forward. But we need to advocate for ourselves so that we can earn that spot at the table. Well, I mean, I wouldn't say we've already earned it. But now we have to actually get it


Jaime Spencer

To actually and we have to, we have to push for it, ask for it and take it instead of you know, just holding back. There was an amazing TED Talk by the CEO of Facebook. I can't remember her name, but I like, love her. And she did a whole podcast about taking a seat at the table and advancing yourself in your career. And it was just so inspiring. And it really made that saying, stick in my head, take a seat at the table. We have to we do deserve it and it's important.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. So some of you may already know about this letter, some of you. I see most of you probably have never seen this in your life or know about it. But AOTA drafted up this letter back in 2017 talking about why OTs should be able to have a seat at the table why OTs should be able to take the coursework to become an administrator and it outlines some great areas such as you know we have the knowledge and skills and mental health positions to address personal issues, to support parents and to promote social-emotional learning that we have the knowledge and the training to, in transitioning, so helping people transition and improve graduation rates, to improve attendance to reduce dropout rates. So this letter was actually sent out to every single Department of Education in every single state. And AOTA did not hear back from any of the states related or regarding this letter. And so who knows where it ended up probably in a shredder somewhere, but this is something that we can have an impact on, as well.


Jaime Spencer

It just goes to show the lack of respect, I mean, to not answer a state association is a big deal.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And I agree. And the other thing about this too, is, correct me if I'm wrong, Jaime, does New York, have OT/PT practice guidelines for therapists in the schools right now?


Jaime Spencer

We are currently developing one.


Jayson Davies

Okay, well, here in California, we have one, but it's from 2012, I believe. So it's very old. But it's actually for 2012. I think it was pretty progressive to the point that it still holds up pretty well today, okay. And I had an experience where I brought that practice guideline to my supervisor, and I highlighted something and I showed it to him, I can't remember exactly what it was today. But they're saying, well, is that from CDE? California Department of Education as a part of the ed code, education code in California. No, but it's practice guidelines that were published by the California Department of Education. Right. And it holds no weight, though, because they're guidelines, they're not laws. And basically, it's not IDEA, it's not California law, it's just guidelines. And so while it talks about moving to that workload model, while it talks about participating in RTI and Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports, it's not something that is required. Alright. So the next phase of our presentation here is to list three unique opportunities for school-based OT practitioners to showcase leadership. So what makes a leader? I think we've talked a lot about this already. So I'll just list a few here. You know, we make decisions. We already do that we're role models, we keep data, we set goals, we're effective, we attract personnel, we take action, we're organized, we're responsible, and we are especially dedicated, at least if you asked me. So,


Jaime Spencer

I agree.


Jayson Davies

How can you become a leader, there are two different types of leadership, you have informal leadership, and then you have formal leadership. I think many of us already take action in this informal leadership, we volunteer, especially hours every day that we still have to work, right? Personal personality, we get out there and we help other people. Maybe you're a social influencer, maybe you actually know a lot, and people come to you. And so you actually are able to direct some of those teachers, even though you're not officially their supervisor, they may come to you for advice. I know I've had that experience in the past. And you are probably pretty clear on your vision, whether or not you are, I don't want to throw out any specific examples. But you likely believe in something like an occupational therapist, whether it's neurodiversity, sensory integration, something, whatever area that you really believe in, you have a clearer vision on that. And you have done the research, you know, that it can help your students and you have a clearer vision of how you can get there. So you are an informal leader, leader. Now, formal leadership is what we've been kind of talking about, for the last 20 minutes or so having that that official job title of being an assistant principal being a principal being something higher than that, and that is where we can not get at this point.


Jaime Spencer

Right. If you're not a formal leader, you don't have the opportunity to put big changes into place, you can't set up new programs or put new systems in place that would benefit everybody that has an OT, twist, or an OT feel, you, you can make suggestions, but your boss might take them, but they would get the credit for putting them into place, you know. So that brings us to another problem. OTs are, I mean, I don't know any OT that's not totally busy and kind of like running all around everywhere, usually, in multiple buildings, you know, we need to show our value. And in order to do that, we've got to be able to volunteer for school-wide initiatives beyond committees influence other people who aren't in our OT bubble, about our value, but we really don't have time. We are we're not often provided the time to be on these committees. We don't get paid for that extra stuff like teachers might. But because of that, we can't really show our influence. We often have second jobs as Jayson said before. And because we can't show our influence we kind of maybe zoom into a building and see our kids and zoom to the next building. And because of that, we might not be valued within the school system. So it's kind of like a hamster on a wheel. Like I said before, which problem came first the chicken or the egg. In order for us to show our value, we've got a put out a little more. And I was in I think it actually was with you, Jayson, where we did a presentation during COVID. And the other guest presenter said, you know, now is the time for OTs to step up, they need to give more. And I felt like, I don't know any OTs who have any more to give, I mean, we're already stretched so thin. I know, so many OTs who don't eat lunch, they, you know, they wait until 3:35, when that bell rings so they can run to the bathroom. And you know, there's no time for the extra stuff of coming up with a new program or sharing a great idea with your principal and helping put it into place from start to finish. We just don't have that extra time. But when you do have the extra time, here's the thing I say, you know, if you can, that's awesome. But I don't think it should be expected because we are already stretched so thin. But I've found that if I create one resource and share it multiple times in multiple ways, I'm able to reach more and more people to try to have an impact. So I've provided continuing education at you know, the staff meetings, I volunteered for the flexible seating committee, and it wasn't a giant commitment. But I did do it because I felt like goodness, if OT is not on the flexible seating committee. I mean, I don't know who should be, you know, you can join committees, you can put together a presentation that would be appropriate to be addressed at the PTA, or addressed at a faculty meeting, just to give everybody the influence. We are not handwriting teachers, we treat the entire child. And it's important to influence. Everybody else is thinking about occupational therapy in general, we need to be our own advocates. And we can influence the general I mean, the administrators as well as the staff to let them know that, you know, it's not just about handwriting, Jaime is the one who knows about strength. And Jaime is the one who knows about vision, and sensory strategies, and all these other things that my kids need help with. And I'm not equipped with but OT is, so as much as you can do, that's great. I mean, every little bit helps, I just find that we're often kind of expected to give this extra stuff for free. While teachers may be, it might be a part of their job. One thing that I have found really helpful is I've printed out handouts from like my own blog, or the Inspire Treehouse or you Jayson that I thought teachers would really benefit from and I make a bulletin board and I just put little folders on the bulletin board with the handouts in there. And it would be like "Do your students struggle with hamstring with a handout of activities", and the teacher consented home? And it says from occupational therapy on it is important that we kind of take ownership of those things that we do because it's, you know, hard to find the time to do that. So as we said, we need to make our own seat at the table, we've got to ask for the things we need. I've had OTs complain to me like I don't even have any pencil grips. I don't even have paper, I have to buy everything for myself. And I said, you know, I was in that position when I first got hired. But years later, I kind of learned you know, my principal doesn't even know that I don't have those things. So if I make a meeting, and I introduce myself, and I advocate not only just for me, "Hi, I'm Jaime Spencer, I'm your occupational therapist. I'm working with these students. I was wondering if you possibly had any extra budget for me to invest in pencil grips because it's already October. And I've given all of mine out." I've never had a principal say no to something like that. And I know sometimes people may work for a third party. And that third party might say, you know, don't ask for anything, you're an independent employee, you have to provide everything yourself. But it's not really always the case. And very often there is a little bit of extra money like even the PTA can provide money for things like extra handouts or seat cushions or you know, whatever it is that you need. It is important to make it known that you need it and why you need it. Because there are people who can help you and you only need one, you only need one person who's like, "Yeah, that's really important. I'll get you your seat cushions no problem." Another easy way to promote OT without having to do any work is to distribute the AOTA factsheets, they have a lot of great handouts that are really helpful, that talk about backpack safety, or what the role of OT is within a school setting. I've handed that one out at a few special ed meetings because I've had parents that said OTs just handwriting and I'm like with my factsheet well actually, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association, we treat the entire child so all you have to do is kind of print out or assemble those resources that you can use again and again. And your work is done. But you still have the opportunity to reach so many people, you can promote occupational therapy month. And you don't have to do a lot of work to do that you can find things that other people have promoted. And even on social media, you can just repost something, or share a cute cartoon or a cute handout, I very often leave things on my faculty room tables. One year, I did a whole display of different kinds of adapted scissors, and I labeled them and I put little examples of why certain students would need certain things. And when I was eating my lunch in that faculty room, not one teacher came in and didn't have to stop and take a peek. And they're like, these are cool scissors. I've never seen these, what is this about? And there's my chance while I'm eating my sandwich to be like, "Oh, well, for kids with weak hamstrings, sometimes they need special scissors that have a spring, and then it helps with their motor memory of the position that they need to do with their hands. But it takes away some of that hard work." You can also offer it to present to your PTA if you don't mind public speaking, I know a lot of people don't like it, some people love it. Another great thing is to show new research articles to your school administrators. So my administrator and it's important to know your administrators and what their I don't want to say their pain points, but what their bet what they value. And if you know that your administrator values, the newest evidence-based practice, or the newest research in certain areas, it's a great way to get your end to bring an article about that says, Look, you know, there was a recent article that showed that weighted vests are helpful for children with ADHD, but it's not a cure-all. So let's have a little conversation with all the teachers who are asking for weighted vests and make sure that they understand how a weighted vest is used and what it's really for, and that it's not, you know, the end all and be all of the things. And my administrator was like, "Woohoo, we don't have to buy another 30 weighted vests this year." You know, just to bring that forward and to show research says, I mean, my administrator love that phrase, research says that this is what's going on. And she's like, "Okay, give it to me, give me the article. All right." And that's an easy thing to do. I just have to photocopy something and have it with me, to bring it to the meeting.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, I could not agree more with that. I mean, it only takes one person to make a change or to get started, at least in making that change. So if you have your administrator on your side, you've got a good team member.


Jaime Spencer

Definitely. So there are a ton of occupational therapy practitioners who work in the California School System, and most of them want parity and to be valued and to be equal to everybody else. But we can't just wait for someone to do it. So many people have said to me, why hasn't this changed? Why aren't we just included? And it's because we all need to step up, we all need to take part. If you just sit back and lay low, you're gonna stay low, you've got to speak up and stand up and help with the I don't want to say the fight, but the journey and the evolvement of occupational therapy, we really all have a responsibility, not just for ourselves, but for the future generations of practitioners, as well as for the kids, the kids are missing out on all the OT superpowers that we have to offer, if think about the difference of what your school district would look like if your superintendent was an occupational therapist. I mean, I think the trickle-down effect would just be unbelievable. So we have to look at the difference. Are you apathetic? Or are you an advocate, apathy is a lack of concern. If you're not doing anything or saying anything if you're not talking about it, you're not motivated, then you have apathy. Or you could be an advocate, which would mean you know, your rights, you speak up for what you deserve. You speak up for yourself, you know your value, you ask for what you need, and you ask for what you want. If you're not doing anything, and you're not saying anything, then your behavior, Minix and apathetic person. There are many, many ways to showcase your opinion, beliefs, and your values as an OTP. But it all starts with one decision. Will you take action? And at the conference last weekend, Jayson, one of the therapists said to me, you know, I know that you're a very outspoken advocate for occupational therapy, and I just wondered if you ever had any backlash? Did you ever get in trouble for being outspoken? And I'll be very honest, I haven't. I've never, you know when you look at other track other things where people stuck up for themselves, I mean, it's only what's right. What I'm stating is a fact I'm not giving equal things to everyone else, and I do what they do. And you know, I'm actually giving black and white facts when I present to my administrators or if I go to someone asking for more I'm always professional, I'm always confident and I make sure I know my stuff, I'm not going to go in there and say, oh, I need, you know, because I know exactly what I need. And I'll give specific reasons why. And, in general, I mean, I really, I've not ever had anything and I can understand being afraid of, you know, they might not give me my job back, or oh, what's going to happen to me, but then I think of like the bigger picture, think of all the people who stuck their neck out for change, think of the “me too movement”, all those women who spoke up and made so many changes in Hollywood, like, and that's such a different thing. But when you look at the big picture, you're going to be okay, there are OT jobs all over the place. Worst case scenario, if you were to lose your job, you've no one can ever take your education away from you. And the chances of it happening are, you know, minute, and I know it's always in the back of everybody's mind, like, what happens if I stand up for myself? You know, what if, but what if people listen? What if your reason why your school district makes a change? You have to look at both ways.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, I absolutely agree. In fact, typically advocating for myself, leads to that admin coming to me more, versus the other way around, even though at the moment, they might be like, "Why is Jayson talking about this," it definitely actually lead them to know that I know more, and that I have more to offer, and that the next time they have a question about something, instead of trying to fake it till they make it, they come to me, and they asked me, "Hey, Jayson, what do you know about research? Or what do you know about this?" And so don't be afraid to speak up.


Jaime Spencer

It's important, and it's part of knowing your worth and knowing your value. They don't know what they're missing, you know, if you do keep quiet, and you don't offer all these wonderful things that you have, everybody's missing out on it. Everybody's missing out on your magic.




Jayson Davies

Yeah. And you know, we haven't explicitly said this, I think I think it's kind of been described a little bit. But a lot of times we work for people that have no idea what we do. Our Special Education Coordinator, our special education director, whoever oversees you, oftentimes has no idea what you do, they know that you do great work, they see you potentially, maybe in some IEPs, they come they observe you once every three years, or whatever, whenever they get around to it to evaluate you. But even when they evaluate you, they don't know what they're evaluating. Because part of that is we haven't told them, and we have to let them know.


Jaime Spencer

Yes, I, to be honest with you, in my 22 years, I've never been evaluated. I shouldn't say I've never been evaluated, I've never been observed. I get like you know, a checklist, like Yes, she does her work. But no one I would love for someone to come observe me. And a lot of people don't feel that way. And I get it. But I do make sure. And even the little ways of letting the people in your school know what it is that you do I make an effort. So if I'm, you know, working with a child in the hallway, and we're using the scooter to get back to class, and you know, inevitably somebody is like, Oh, that looks like so much fun. I max my turn, you know, like just being cute. I am always like, Yeah, and look how strong he's getting his arms are our look at those muscles. You know, like, I'm making sure that that grownup knows that we're not, we're not just playing here like we are working on important things. And it's a very easy way to do it. You can do that and go home and be like, I advocated for OT today. You know, you want people to know, we are not just handwriting teachers.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. So we have about 15 minutes left, which is going to bring us right to our final section today. And Miss Jaime, she just asked you a question. I called you Miss Jaime. Miss Jaime OT, I can't get it out of my head. She asked you a question a moment ago, she asked are going to take action. And in this section, we want to show you how you can take action, we want to apply these concepts of advocacy or school-based OT leadership at the local and state level. And we want you to take action on this, we're going to show you how. The first thing that we need to do is communicate the need for change. This has a ripple effect. And we've already discussed a little bit you know, it only takes one person and it doesn't necessarily even need to start with your administrator level. I know that's what we talked about a few minutes ago. But it can really start by sharing that one thing with one teacher with who you already have a rapport. And then that teacher might share it with their co-teacher maybe you helped one second grade teacher and the next thing you know all three second grade teachers are coming to you asking for your support. It really only starts with one that's happened to me on multiple occasions. I go to a new school. I provide it can be as simple as a pencil grip to a kindergartener teacher. And a week later, I'm getting an email saying hey, can you come and share with us some techniques during our PLC our learning community time on Wednesday afternoon, we really have some students that are having difficulty with this and this and this and we would love your take on different things. You know Jaime alluded to some of the big changes that have happened recently, you know, the “me too movement”, the Black Lives Matters, movements, all of these we wouldn't know about today unless something started somewhere, you know, it only took one person to really start that movement, and then look how it has grown today. So how can you start that ripple, get involved, communicate with their state and local associations and leaders, it is awesome that you are here right now, you are at an Occupational Therapy Association for California conference? And you chose this specific presentation to go to, which means I already know you're a natural-born leader. So you're in the right spot. Now we need to communicate, we need to go beyond this, we need to communicate with OTAC, which OTAC to be fair, has done so much the last few years, and it hasn't been easy for them. So they need our help. Join the go-to OT OTAC initiative. This is something that was actually started by my friend, Sabrina McNally. And she has just gotten done so much for our profession. And she is now actually the state RA for AOTA which means she is a person that we can talk to. And she's going to take that information over to AOTA and let them know, hey, California needs help with this. So reach out to your RAs, the go-to OT initiative, I want to share that with you really quickly is basically there is a lot of occupational therapist in California. One in four, as we mentioned earlier, is our school-based OT so I don't know the numbers, my license number is 13,000. So I'm assuming there's probably about 15, active, maybe 15,000, active school-based or not school-based but OTs, there are not that many California legislators. So every single one of us should be able to find a legislator, state assembly member that we can have contact with, whether it's an email a phone call, meeting up with them, and tweeting at them Instagramming at them, let them know who you are and what you do. It can be that simple. It's just letting them know who you are. You don't have to have lunch with them. If you want to, by all means, go for it. But it doesn't have to go that far. You can just reach out even voting and understanding who you're voting for is a is advocacy, email your state OT legislative chair and RA. I mentioned RA Sabrina, we have another RA. I don't think I have his name on me right now. But we actually have two RAs in the state of California. And their information can be found on AOTA and I think Miss Jaime might actually have the RA information in a Facebook group called the California School-Based OTs for change, right.


Jaime Spencer

California school-based OTs looking for Facebook advocacy group, and Jayson and I are the administrators of the group. And we have been for years, it's been a little slow in there. But we created the group just to have a collective place for California-based occupational therapy practitioners to discuss advocacy, what we can do what's going on. And we have some resources in there for you as well, that we'll be talking about.


Jayson Davies

Yes, and obviously, you're here. So you're already supporting OTAC. Be sure to also support AOTA and I will see you in the Facebook group. Now, here's the reason why it's so important to be willing and open to talk. Because the California Department of Education is a messy spiderweb of people, and you never know who you might actually be talking to. You might be at a cocktail party for your friend's wedding. And you might be standing next to I don't know, the Tony Thurman, do you know the state superintendent of public education? Who knows you never know who you're going to be talking to? And so speak up, let people know who you are and what you do.


Jaime Spencer

And then Tony says, "Oh, my goodness, my son had OTA. That's amazing. I didn't know that you guys weren't treated equally to OTs and PTs."


Jayson Davies

Yeah. Yeah. Don't just say you're a teacher. Don't just say you work with students with special education. Let them know what you actually do what your title is, and, and share that with the world. You know, get it out there.


Jaime Spencer

Or I sometimes will have friends introduce me to someone else and be like, "Oh, she's a teacher?" And I'm like, "no, no, I'm an occupational therapist. And I work with chill, you know, blah, blah, blah," my little elevator speech is short but sweet, but I make sure they know exactly what I do. And I do often say, you know, I'll go into the whole like a hospital setting. The physical therapist works on this and you know, and we'll do the whole thing like a physical therapist might help you to walk down the street, but if you're not wearing your pants, you're in big trouble. OTs are really important in the school district.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, I really like to describe what I do. I like to ask people a question. You know, let me describe what you do. What is one of your favorite activities that you do? And then they tell me whatever it might be, and then I say, you know, God forbid what happened if you make maybe had a stroke or something and you couldn't do those things that you loved. And this is how an occupational therapist could help you. And you know, it kind of hits home with them, they remember it. And maybe the next time they're out doing whatever their favorite activity is golfing, they think about that OT, who said, "Oh, man, he said he could really help me with my shoulder, whatever might be, you know." And so what the know and who knows, maybe that guy's golfing with Tony Thurman, I don't know. But it can all start with one little ripple and it can grow from there. So Jaime put this little chip on here with I love and she actually had to ask me, I don't know. Maybe she thought I was too young when I saw this. Like, do you know what this is from? I was like, Santa Claus. I couldn't think of the movie. But we got


Jaime Spencer

cuz I'm a total movie buff. Like, I remember lines from movies. I remember. I'll see movie ones. And I'm like, Oh, yeah. So I refer to movies a lot. But like, my best friend doesn't know anything. And I'll be like, Are you kidding me? You and I have watched that movie together at times. You don't know it? And she's like, what? So I try not to assume that people know a movie.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. So this is from the miracle on 34th Street. Actually, I think this is the original one. Which I know people always like, No, I don't want to watch the one in color. I don't want to watch the one from whatever you want the original. Yes, yes. So never underestimate the power of a letter or the power of 20,000 letters. OTAC regularly sends out emails and they say hey, can you please send this letter, oftentimes, they give you a template, or they even actually, sometimes it's just a Google form, and you fill out the Google Form, and it magically sends a letter to whoever it might be. That's important in that in that system. But this is who you can send that letter to the California Department of Education, you can send it to even your union if you're part of the Union. You know, unfortunately, with unions, we tend to be if you're part of a union, you are one person in a union of like hundreds. And so sometimes the OTs don't get heard. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't stop trying. In fact, if you can send a monthly email to your union member and just say, "Hey, this is what I do. This is how I help the kid this week," you know, let them know, let Otac know and ask for more. Yes, yes, ask for more. Let OTAC know, they are really trying to change the law in California, it's a messy process that we have to go through in order to get that credential, it really isn't going to be straight up with you. It is a messy process. With a lot of players involved. The unions are involved, the California Department of Education is involved. The State Board of licensing is involved, how much education we have that plays into it, there's so much that goes into that. But we have to let them know that we're interested. And so sending those letters to OTAC, sending them to your AOTA RAs, as we already mentioned earlier, and then the go-to OT advocacy talking to your state assembly members. Even if we get a legislation bill in place. If our state assembly members have no idea what it is, then they're likely not going to vote for it. So we need to let them know, "Hey, we have something coming up." And I really hope that if nothing else, you remember the name of occupational therapy, because we have a bill coming up, it's going to be about occupational therapy, and how we can support our students in schools. Even if it's that something that simple, you can do it. Jaime and I were setting up something to help you out here, we're going to put a template up in this California school-based OTs looking for change Facebook group is going to be kind of a plug and play letter for you that you can send out, you might want to edit it or update it a little bit to be a little more specific to you. But this is going to be a letter that you can send out to your union member, your union rep, or your even your boss. I mean, just send it out to people and let them know who you are what you do. And by the way, it is important for you to have the ability to be an administrator. Jaime, do you want to add to that?


Jaime Spencer

Yes. So I think in this day and age, people email a lot. And I don't know about you, Jayson, I know you're in the same boat where you work as a school-based OT and you have a business on the side. So my emails are jam-packed millions of emails and I'm like, "oh, goodness, I just can't even start addressing all of them." But when I receive something in the mail, when I receive a letter from someone that's different, I don't get a lot of handwritten mail or typed mail that's sent specifically to me. So I always make sure to read it. And that is something that I really think is important here. So we did create a template, we're going to post it in the California group, it's going to be under Files. So when you join the group, unless you already are in there. Just go to files and it's going to be there for you and you can plug in the important people that you want to address but we do have the meat and potatoes of it there for you. So you don't have to come up with like well what do I ask for? How do I ask It's there for you. Just put in your name where you're from, and anything extra that you want to add is great. And put a stamp on it and address it and mail it out because that is something that's going to be opened and read more thoroughly than just another email in the box. So if you, I just said I was a total movie buff, if you guys remember Shawshank Redemption, one of the best movies ever. And he prayed he wanted more money for the jail library. And he asked his boss, can I please write a letter to get more money and the boss was like you I mean, I don't care. Go ahead. But you know, no one's gonna do anything about it. So he wrote a letter a week. And he ended up getting it because the person who was in charge of it said off with these letters and gave him a nice big check. And he ended up outfitting an entire library for his jail, it just goes to show, if we keep doing it, keep advocating keep sending the letters, you can go to this file and print out 10 copies, and sign them all up and mail them once a week, for the next 10 weeks. And that makes a big difference. If the person didn't know anything about it or knew a little bit about it, they're going to be a lot more aware after they receive 10 letters about it. And if you and the person sitting next to you, does it, then that's 20 letters that they end up receiving, we want to be like a little bee buzzing in their ears that's constantly. I don't want to say annoying, but reminding them of this very, very important need that must be addressed.


Jayson Davies

So Jamie, how long does it take to move a mountain?


Jaime Spencer

It takes a long time and it takes a lot of people but it can get done. I can't even begin to tell you the amount of time and work and effort that so many wonderful occupational therapists before us have done Jayson, people like Jan Hollenback and Patti Labrador, and Serena Zeiler. They have written articles, Joan's going Kirsch, there's so much that people have already done that we can build upon, we can take their work and show it to other people or email articles, we need to spread out this information. And we need to make it widely known. Again, with things like me too movement, one person started but little by little it's snowballed. More and more people were talking about it more and more people were saying, "Yeah, I'm not treated fairly. either. I'm this, I'm that." And I'm not remotely trying to compare this to the Mewtwo movement, but just that kind of sticking up for yourself, having those guts to just say, You know what, I'm not going to put my head down anymore, I'm not going to just ignore it and keep working every day. Because in five years, either they'll be changed, or there won't. But if you help, you're much better off. You know, if everyone does something, the time is gonna pass no matter what. But if we do something every day or every week to help it, they'll be a different mountain in five years to address.


Jayson Davies

Absolutely. And that brings us to our final slide where we get to say thank you so much. And we have our emails here for you. Feel free to email Jaime, feel free to email me our emails are there for you CC as both or whatever you want to do. But let us know we want to help you. We want to answer your question. Please do reach out. And don't forget to sign up for, see a school-based OTs looking for a change Facebook group, you might even find a replay of this video there at some point. So,


Jaime Spencer

if you're looking for more resources and more information, Jayson has a lot of great podcasts about advocacy. Jayson, I loved the one you did about how important it is to join your membership.


Jayson Davies

Thanks. Yes with Sarah.


Jaime Spencer

Yes. I mean, that was really great. And I have some posts on my website as well missjaimeot.com, about advocacy, about sticking up for yourself about how I wish I had the red shirt. Just to start if you're if this is new to you, and this topic is something that you want to learn more about. This is a great way to educate yourself. Jayson and I both have a lot of resources on our websites for you to kind of start that educational journey.


Jayson Davies

And sorry, one more thing, if you are not in California, but you happen to be here know that Jaime has like a Facebook group for just about I don't know if you have every state but she also has the USA right?


Jaime Spencer

Yes. So I have the USA school-based OTs looking for Change Group, which is all like anybody if you join California, Please also join the USA. But we've had multiple people, people like you, Jayson who said who stand up and say, I want to do something specific for my state that has branched off and made subgroups. So we have New York, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Connecticut, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, I think, Ohio, Illinois, they have all they all have their own groups. Now there's not always a ton going on in these groups, but they were collecting our people. And we're gathering our crowds so that we can move on things together when it's time.


Jayson Davies

Perfect. All right. So thank you so much for being here. And we'll see in a moment.


Jaime Spencer

Thank you, everybody.


Jayson Davies

Alright, and that is going to wrap up the OT Schoolhouse podcast for 2021. Thank you so much for being here. And a big shout out to Jaime Spencer of missjaimeot.com. For really putting the bulk of this presentation together, she has done this in many states now, or at least a few. And she really helped me to just kind of add in the California-specific content. But as I mentioned in the intro, this is very specific to any state. Yes, some lingo may change, there might be a different education board that you have to reach out to. But we should all be working to get credentialed as occupational therapists within the schools. So one more time, thank you so much to Jaime Spencer, for helping me put this together. And thank you for listening to this episode and every other episode of the OT Schoolhouse podcast. I look forward to coming back in 2022 strong. And actually, I want to share your stories in 2022. So if you're still listening to the very end of this podcast, thank you, but also reach out to me and let me know what worked for you in 2021. I want to share those stories in 2022 about how you thrived through a difficult time. So reach out to me email me at jayson@otschoolhouse.com and let me know what went well and 2021. Who knows maybe you'll be on the OT Schoolhouse podcast sharing your big accomplishments. Alright, everyone, take care to have a great winter break and I will see you and 2022. Bye now.


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.




Be sure to subscribe to the OT School House email list & get access to our free downloads of Gray-Space paper and the Occupational Profile for school-based OTs.


Have any questions or comments about the podcast? Email Jayson at Jayson@otschoolhouse.com

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