Starting the School Year Off Right as a School-Based Therapist

back to school therapyAs summer wraps up, it means it is time to start another school year. If you are a school-based occupational, speech or physical therapist, you’ll meet the students on your caseload and start working on IEPs. The start of the school year is a fresh start and a great time to develop new treatment strategies.

In order to start the school year off on the right foot, it’s helpful to keep several things in mind including the following suggestions:

Review Last Year

Take an honest look at what you did last year. Think about what worked and what didn’t. Consider what you could have done better to stay more organized or motivate your students. Even if you are an experienced therapist, there is almost always room for improvement. Reviewing effective therapy techniques is not just about being self-critical. Instead, it’s about continuing to grow as a therapist and doing the best job you can for your students.

Take Time to Get to Know Parents

Whether you talk to parents at back to school night or send an email introducing yourself, it’s helpful to get to know your student’s parents. Your student’s parents are also members of your team and getting to know them a little is beneficial for everyone.

Stay Organized from the Start

The start of a new school year is a clean slate. Make it a priority to stay organized on everything from therapy notes to IEP meetings. Find an organizational system that works well for you. Once you fall behind, you might always be playing catchup, which will make your days more stressful.  

Don’t Rush Through Assessments

Regardless of whether you are an occupational, speech, or physical therapist, as you meet children on your caseload, take your time completing therapy assessments. Completing a thorough assessment gives you a better understanding of the child’s needs and helps you develop more appropriate IEP plans.

Make Sure You Understand School Policies

If you are new to a school, make sure you understand the school’s policies. Even if you are a returning school-based therapist, determine if there are any policy changes for the new school year. Districts may have different policies regarding caseload size, whether you can do group therapy sessions, and budget constraints.

Take Inventory

Determine what supplies you still have from last year or if you are new to a school, figure out what you may need. For instance, as an occupational therapist, you may need supplies, such as games, toys, and books, which are always helpful to have on hand. You may also need handwriting tools, balance and strength devices, and positioning cushions. Taking inventory at the start of the school year and ordering what is within the school’s budget helps you plan your therapy sessions.

The first week of school is an exciting time for teachers, students, and school-based therapists. Starting the school year off right makes it more enjoyable and productive for everyone. What tips do you have for school-based therapists to have a great school year? Share with us in the comments section below.

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