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This week, we have our much-awaited list of 10 Handiest American Occupational Therapy Association fact sheets. Just like the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, AOTA has done a lot of work creating resources that are great summaries or starting points for discussing different aspects of providing OT in the schools. You can use some of these resources as:

  • Communication tools with families
  • Handouts for an in-service training with educators and school administrators
  • Topics of discussion at the next OT meeting of your school district

There are many AOTA fact sheets and tip sheets on pediatric topics available via this link. You can also find more fact sheet by clicking on one of the other topics (such as evidence-based practice, ethics, health and wellness, and others) on the left side of the webpage in the same link.

We have taken the task of narrowing them down to SeekFreaks’ 10 handy fact sheets. We chose the 10 that we thought would be most useful for you, families, teachers, administrators, other school colleagues and community providers. We hope that this can spark your interest – and when you’re ready, start exploring fact sheets beyond our top 10.

For PT and SLP SeekFreaks reading this article, we highly recommend the following fact sheets. Read the FAQs for Educators for strategies we can also apply in our role as related service “educators.” The fact sheet Successful Participation at School: Strategies for Students with ASD has a great list of evidence-based strategies we can all utilize when working with students with autism. Create a checklist using the table on page 2 of Transitions for Children and Youth: How Occupational Therapy Can Help to prevent students from falling through the cracks during early childhood and postsecondary transitions. Read and discuss Bullying Prevention and Friendship Promotion with your peers.

As with the APPT and ASHA resources, many of these are very brief, having no more than 2-3 pages. As such, they are perfect initial resources for knowledge. More reading is encouraged, that’s why the authors of these fact sheets have included references and reading materials that would be helpful in expounding on the topic. Note also that some of the AOTA fact sheets are in PDF formats, while others are web pages. We personally find the PDFs easier to share, and aesthetically superior; however, when we do find web pages informative and engaging, nothing could stop us from printing them out and sharing them. By the way, some AOTA resources are free to non-members, while others are not. For this article, we focused on materials that are free and readily accessible.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Occupational Therapy in School Settings

  • There is no better place to start when communicating with others what OTs do in the educational setting.
  • This fact sheet is a brief summary of school-based OT expertise, sample interventions,  and role of OTs as members of the educational team. the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the role of physical therapists in the school, and the IEP team decision-making.
  • Want some more information of how OTs made it to the school setting as a related services? Read  the fact sheet on The Role of OT with Children and Youth, and the SeekFreaks article OTs, PTs and SLPs, How Did We Get Here?
  • Even more? Here are AOTA brochures specifically for parents and school administrators.

2. Response to Intervention Consumer Brochure

  • Whether you are interested in learning about the role of OT in RtI, or you would like to educate your team and parents on how you can contribute in the RtI process, here is a 2-page brochure for you.
  • It defines, RtI, its 3-Tiered interventions and examples of OT support that can be provided under RtI. It also include links to other resources that you may find useful when participating in RtI.
  • We also recommend that you read Occupational Therapy and Universal Design for Learning and FAQs for Educators, which contain important baseline knowledge to have when participating in RtI.

3. The Role of Occupational Therapy in Providing Assistive Technology Devices and Services

  • This fact sheet starts by defining assistive technology (AT) devices and services. The latter being a complex combination of evaluation, acquisition, customization, training and technical support.
  • It provides a brief description of the role OTs play in AT in the schools.
  • Our favorite is that the fact sheet provides case examples, from problem identification all the way to acquisition and use of AT devices.

4. Successful Participation at School: Strategies for Students with ASD

  • As experts in the healthcare field, teachers often look up to us for explanation and support. This is no more true than when working with students diagnosed with autism. Here is a great fact sheet for in-service training or for 1-on-1 consultation with educators.
  • This fact sheet provides teachers with evidence-based strategies to improve engagement during instruction and in class routines, promoting peer interaction, managing behaviour, and supporting executive function skills.
  • There are lots of references here which we recommend you include on your reading list and voraciously consume.
  • You can also start an in-service on autism with a good introductory fact sheet on  Occupational Therapy’s Role with Autism.

5. Transitions for Children and Youth: How Occupational Therapy Can Help

  • Transitions are critical times of change, when opportunities for “falling through the cracks” can easily happen. Here is a 2-for-1 fact sheet to avoid them! It tackles early childhood transitions and high school to adult life transitions.
  • It starts with brief discussions of transition, transition planning and transition services. I particularly like the table on the 2nd page – one can easily create a checklist based on this. Check it as you complete the task to make sure no student “falls through the cracks.”
  • If you are working with high school students, you can also utilize this fact sheet specific to employment: The Role of OT in Facilitating Employment of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities.

  6. Backpack Strategies for Parents and Students

  • Did you know that there were more than 2,000 backpack-related injuries treated at medical facilities in 2007? Neither did I…until I read Backpack Facts: What’s All the Flap About? Where are all the rolling bags that were so popular when I was wee student?
  • Good thing the AOTA came up with the one-pager Backpack Strategies to prevent such issues.
  • Share it with parents or use it for an in-service.

7. Childhood Occupations Toolkit

8. The Cafeteria: Creating a Positive Mealtime Experience

  • Cafeteria, why are you so loud and chaotic? Beneath the noisy surface is a great opportunity to embed our services to promote self-care and socialization skills.  
  • This resource provides professional recommendations, such as educating cafeteria supervisors, promoting positive mealtime behavior, fostering social interaction, environmental modification, and promotion of good nutrition.
  • Additionally, it contains great suggestions for supporting students across the 3 Tiers of RtI within the cafeteria.
  • This resource is part of a series within a School Mental Health Toolkit. Check out the other resources int his toolkit, including our number 9 choice below.

9. Bullying Prevention and Friendship Promotion

  • What a timely and much-needed resource! This document lists the potential effects of bullying, from the negative impact on social participation to the lack of interest in previously enjoyed play or leisure activities. How many of the students with disabilities that you work with experience bullying?
  • As members of the school community, we need to take part in preventing bullying and its subsequent impact on student’s lives.
  • This resource provides steps therapists and other school staff can implement within the 3 Tiers of RtI. Learn whole school approaches, targeted strategies for students at risk of bullying, and how to intervene during and after a bullying incident.
  • Finally, this document includes resources to further address bullying.

10. Specialized Knowledge and Skills in Feeding, Eating and Swallowing for OT Practice

  • The AOTA resource website is also full of resources from different sources, including from the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (you can find those links here).
  • This article is one of those resources that would be really helpful if you are addressing mealtime needs of the child.
  • It provides foundational information about feeding, eating and swallowing, as well as entry-level and advanced knowledge and skills assessment for OTs and OT Assistants. The latter lists also serve as reminders to elements that you will need to take into consideration when working on mealtime activities.

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There are a lot more informative pediatric fact sheets in the AOTA website. We just limited them to 10 so as not to be overwhelming. We are going 1 step further by creating bundles of these fact sheets – a basic toolbox, if you will, that you can use depending on your role and your needs.

4 Bundles of AOTA Fact Sheets to Suit Your Particular Needs

Bundle #1: Handouts for New School-based PTs, and for PT Students

This bundle would be perfect for clinical instructors to hand out out to their OT students. It is also ideal for new OTs, and seasoned OTs who are new to school-based practice.

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Bundle #2: Handouts for Families/Parents/Guardians/Caregivers

As the name implies, this bundle is for families and caregivers. Don’t overwhelm them by handing these out at one time. Select only what’s right for your purpose, and make sure you discuss the contents of the fact sheet with the family. Finally, don’t forget to check with your school and/or school district to see if it’s ok to hand these out.

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Bundle #3: For In-service Training for School Staff and Community Providers

Asked to conduct an in-service to your school team, here are some topics to choose from. It also saves you from having to create your own handout. These fact sheets can also be used to provide key information to those who may be unfamiliar with school-based practice such as physicians, clinic-based therapists, transition case managers, or other community providers.

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Bundle #4: Discussion Topics for Therapist Meetings

Here are some topics to discuss at your school district’s therapist meetings. Make it interactive, have a lively debate, and come up with your own list of answers and guidance.

  • Response to Intervention Consumer Brochure
    • Yes, this brochure may be too basic, so add more meat to it by discussing:
      • How is RtI implemented in your own school(s)?
      • What is the expectation for OTs to participate?
      • How does your school team monitor the student’s progress in RtI?
      • What are the challenges for OTs who are participating in RtI?
      • What interventions are appropriate to delegate to teachers and teacher aides in RtI?
      • Come up with a list of ways OTs can provide support for each of the 3 Tiers of RtI.   
  • Specialized Knowledge and Skills in Feeding, Eating and Swallowing for OT Practice
    • Get more confident with your skills in feeding, eating and swallowing by discussing this article during an OT meeting.
    • Here are some discussion points:
      • Ask those who have worked on these skills to share their experiences.
      • Do some case studies with students who need or needed this service in the past (be careful not to share personally identifiable information).
      • Review the list of knowledge and skills, and ask everybody to share specific strategies and technique for addressing these skills.
  • Bullying Prevention and Friendship Promotion
    • We should definitely talk more often about bullying and how we can address it.
    • If possible, invite a school counselor to join or moderate your meeting.
    • Discussion ideas:
      • Allow participants to share their own experience on bullying.
      • Or, have every participant put themselves in the shoes of a student that is being bullied and share how bullying can impact their lives.
      • What is the role of related service providers in preventing bullying? Give specific strategies you can do to prevent bullying. Refer to the document for some examples.
      • What would you do if the student you are working with is a bully?
      • Discuss the school’s regulations for addressing and reporting bullying incidents.
      • End with a positive discussion on steps related service providers can take to promote friendships. Share success stories.
  • The Role of Occupational Therapy in Providing Assistive Technology Devices and Services
    • Here is a topic where there is always something new to learn.
    • Discussion ideas:
      • Low-tech AT devices that work
      • Latest AT devices
      • Discuss specific cases and come up with goals that AT can address and how (don’t forget to keep the student’s identifiable information private)
      • How to obtain AT equipment and get funding to pay for them

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Readers of this article also read these:

10 Handy American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Resources

10 Handy Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Fact Sheets

Response to Intervention and Physical Therapy

5 Practical Tips for Classroom Arrangement

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