Books Every School-Based OT Should Read

As a school-based occupational therapist, staying informed and empathetic is essential for fostering effective, compassionate interventions. Books are a great way for school-based OTs to accomplish this. Reading widely not only enhances your professional development but also equips you with diverse perspectives to meet the varied needs of your students. I love to read, and I’m always looking for books that will improve or expand my practice as a school-based OT. Here are the books that every school-based OT should consider adding to their reading list. Each book offers unique insights into different challenges and experiences that can profoundly influence your practice. I plan to periodically update this list as I read more, so check back often! And if you have any reading suggestions, please share your thoughts in the comments!

The Best Books for School-Based OTs, in No Particular Order

Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison by Ido Kedar

In “Ido in Autismland,” Ido Kedar shares his journey as a non-speaking autistic individual who learned to communicate through typing. This memoir provides a profound insight into the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of an autistic person, challenging many preconceived notions. For school-based OTs, this book is invaluable as it emphasizes the importance of presuming competence, encouraging alternative communication methods, and understanding the sensory experiences of autistic students. It serves as a guide to develop more effective, respectful, and individualized therapeutic approaches. I love this book because it focuses on the lived experiences of an autistic person, which we don’t get enough of in our formal education as OTs. This is essential reading for anyone working with autistic students or students who use AAC devices. 

Fight Right by John and Julie Gottman

As this is a book by renowned couples therapy clinicians and researchers, John and Julie Gottman, you may consider this a strange recommendation for a school-based OT. But this book delves into conflict resolution strategies based on years of research, and I find these strategies relevant for all types of relationships, not just romantic ones. If you’ve ever felt anxious about an IEP meeting, this book is for you. You will learn so much more about how you conceptualize and navigate conflict, and how the parents and teachers you work with do as well. This book reframes conflict as opportunities for connection, and I think that’s a beautiful lens to consider when developing the best plan for a student. 

books for school-based OTs

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

“The Reason I Jump” provides a personal account from Naoki Higashida, a non-speaking autistic teenager. Through his writings, Naoki illustrates how autistic individuals perceive the world, including the challenges with sensory overload and social interactions. This book helps school-based OTs to better understand and support the unique sensory needs of autistic students, implement more effective communication strategies, and foster an inclusive environment that recognizes their potential. Again, it is so important to listen to the voices of those who have lived experiences similar to the students we work with. They are who we should be learning the most from!

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race” discusses race and systemic racism in an accessible manner. This book is essential for school-based OTs to foster an understanding of how race impacts the education system and the individual experiences of students, particularly students of color. It provides a framework for addressing racial issues within therapeutic practices and helps OTs support a culturally responsive practice that acknowledges and addresses racial disparities. If you think race doesn’t affect your school-based OT practice, you’re wrong, and I challenge you to broaden your worldview by reading this book with an open mind. 

Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk

“Trauma Stewardship” introduces OTs to the concept of caring for themselves while caring for others, particularly in contexts where they are exposed to the trauma of others, which is common in school settings. This book offers practical advice on how to recognize signs of trauma in themselves and their students and provides strategies for resilience and recovery. It’s an essential guide for maintaining personal well-being while delivering high-quality care to students. Trauma is another one of those things that definitely impacts your school-based OT services whether you realize it or not, and Trauma Stewardship was my absolute favorite when I delved deeper into books on the topic. If you’ve ever felt burnt out in the school setting, start with this book. 

books for school-based OTs

Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children’s Behavioral Challenges by Mona Delahooke

In “Beyond Behaviors,” Mona Delahooke uses a compassionate, neuroscience-based approach to understanding and addressing children’s behavioral challenges. If you’ve ever noticed the sensory/behavior paradigm isn’t a true binary, you’ll appreciate this book. This book is particularly relevant for school-based OTs as it provides a deeper understanding of how underlying neurobiological and emotional factors influence behavior. This insight allows OTs to develop more effective, compassionate interventions that go beyond managing behaviors to addressing the root causes, promoting longer-lasting change in their students. I loved this book for offering practical strategies that I could use with students, and for giving me a more nuanced and holistic view of behavior than school teams tend to have. 

I love reading, and I only wish that I could do it more during the school year. Since you’re a busy school-based OT too, I hope these recommendations narrow down what you should be using your valuable time to read. This summer, try to check one or two of these off of your list, and of course, return the favor and give me a book recommendation! There’s a good chance I’ll add it to this list of the best books for school-based OTs.

Looking for more ways to spend your summer wisely? My course, The Dynamic School OT, is the best resource for any therapist looking to become a more knowledgeable and confident school-based OT, and summer may be the best time to take it! Click here to learn more. 

4 thoughts on “Books Every School-Based OT Should Read”

  1. Neurotribes by Steve Silberman. Must read on the hx of the autism dx. Some chapters challenging re: eugenics movement abroad and here in the states. Really good reminder of our hx in this area.

  2. Thanks for these recommendations, I look forward to checking them out! Also 4/6 of these books are available as audiobooks if you have an existing Spotify premium membership.

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