Speech, physical, and occupational therapists are vital to helping children who have certain challenges reach their full potential in school. Working as a therapist in a school setting can be a rewarding and satisfying career path. To be an effective school therapist, it’s helpful to keep several things in mind.
- Working as a school-based therapist is different than working with patients in a hospital. In a healthcare setting, such as a rehabilitation center or acute care hospital, you’re helping patients achieve their highest level of functioning. In a school setting, though you also want to help students function optimally, you’re primarily concentrating on how a child’s challenges affect their academic ability. Whether you’re working as a physical, occupational, or speech therapist, there are additional differences working in a school versus a hospital. In a school setting, you’ll be responsible for working on your student’s individual educational plan (IEP) and meeting with parents, which you do not do in a hospital.
- You can’t fix every situation. As a school-based therapist, you naturally want to do your best and help every student. But in some cases, progress may be slow or limited. It’s easy to get frustrated or feel like you’re not doing enough. Some situations are also sad, which can make your job heartbreaking at times. When times get difficult, try to remember how much you do help your students.
- Parents are part of the team. Helping children overcome obstacles to academic success is a team effort. In addition to other school-based therapists, you’re also working closely with teachers, aides and parents. Each person plays a major role in helping children achieve their goals. Gathering input and help from each team member will not only help you work more effectively with each student, but it also makes your job go smoother. A team approach to therapy increases the chances the students you’re working with will meet their goals.
- Respect is key. A good relationship between a school-based therapist and his/her students starts with respect. Respect also should be shown to parents and teachers. Showing respect includes listening to someone else’s point of view. Keep in mind, students have various cultural, religious, and socioeconomically backgrounds. Individual student experiences also shape their attitudes, beliefs, and fears. You may not understand everything about someone’s else beliefs or agree with every word they say, but it’s important to be open-minded and consider someone else’s perspective.
- You make a difference. School therapists have the opportunity to work with children with all types of challenges. You may have the chance to work with students with cerebral palsy, learning delays and speech problems. Physical, speech, and occupational therapy can play a large role in helping children meet their academic goals. But that’s not all. School-based therapists also work with children to improve independence, socialization, and overall quality of life. When you’re having a hard day and things get tough, remember the difference you’re making. In fact, you may help your students more than you’ll ever realize!