How to Celebrate a School-Based OT this Occupational Therapy Month

April is Occupational Therapy (OT) Month, a time when we shine a spotlight on the invaluable contributions of occupational therapists, especially those working in our schools. School-based OTs and OTAs play a pivotal role in helping students navigate their educational journeys with greater ease, supporting not just academic achievement but also promoting well-being and independence. Recognizing and celebrating these professionals is not just about a token gesture; it’s about acknowledging their hard work, dedication, and the significant impact they have on the educational environment. Here’s how we can celebrate these unsung heroes in meaningful ways.

Dive Deep into Their World

Take a moment to really understand what school-based OTs do. Our role extends beyond a therapy room, touching every aspect of a student’s school day, from self-help skills to handwriting to sensory processing. Acknowledging the depth and breadth of our work not only shows appreciation but also fosters a deeper respect for our profession. The first step in celebrating school-based OTs is to truly understand what we do. OTs in schools help students perform better in their roles as learners, friends, and young individuals navigating the complexities of growth and learning environments. We assist with everything from fine motor skills to executive function, making sure every student has the tools to succeed.

Take this month to learn more about our contributions and perhaps share this newfound appreciation with your colleagues and the OTs themselves. Making sure you recognize the unique contributions of occupational therapy providers – separate from PT, speech, or other educators – really is the first step in making us feel appreciated. 

If you’re looking to learn more, these two articles on our role and a day in the life are great places to get started! 

Acknowledge Their Contributions Publicly

Start OT Month with a bang by publicly acknowledging the hard work and achievements of your school-based OTs. Use school assemblies, newsletters, and social media platforms to highlight their contributions. Public recognition not only boosts morale but also educates the school community about the vital role of OTs. Share success stories and testimonials from other educators, and let the community know just how integral these professionals are to the holistic development of students.

Create a Dedicated Display

Consider dedicating a space within the school, like the main lobby or the staff lounge, to celebrate OT Month. This space can be used to display information about occupational therapy, including what OT practitioners do, the importance of their work, and how they contribute to the success of students. You could also include fun facts about OT, interactive elements like quizzes, and even artwork or projects created by students in collaboration with OTs. This not only celebrates OT providers but also serves as an educational tool for the entire school community.

school-based OT month

Provide Professional Development Opportunities Geared for School-Based OT

One of the most valuable ways to celebrate your school-based OTs is by investing in their professional growth. Offer opportunities for them to attend relevant workshops, seminars, or conferences. This not only acknowledges their professional contributions but also enriches their skill set, ultimately benefiting the students they work with. As a school-based OT, I often attend professional development at school that is more suited for classroom teachers. While I can find a way to benefit from these, it’s so much easier when the continuing education is geared towards school-based OTs in the first place. Professional development is a gift that keeps on giving, as it enables OTs to stay current with the latest research, techniques, and tools in their field. The Dynamic School OT Course is a great fit for this, but if they’ve already taken it, there are some other good ideas in this list!

School-Wide OT Education

Organizing an educational event or workshop led by OTs for staff and/or students can be a fantastic way to celebrate OT Month. This not only highlights the OTs’ expertise but also fosters a better understanding of occupational therapy’s role within the school setting. Topics could range from the importance of sensory breaks for students to strategies for integrating OT practices into the classroom. This approach not only celebrates OTs but also promotes a culture of inclusivity and collaboration.

Personal Tokens of Appreciation

Simple, personal gestures can go a long way in showing appreciation. Handwritten thank you notes, a surprise coffee delivery, or a small gift can make a big difference in an OT’s day. I’ve worked in around 50 schools at this point, and I still have cards and notes from the very first district I ever was in. If you have the budget, you can also consider giving gift cards to local businesses to add a personalized touch while supporting the community. While I appreciate any gift, I try not to patronize Amazon or Starbucks. So when one of my schools took the time to get me a gift certificate to the coffee shop around the corner, it meant so much more! These tokens of appreciation show OTs that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed and that you value them as members of the school community. 

Schedule Personal Check-Ins

Taking the time to personally check in with your OTs can be incredibly meaningful. Schedule a brief meeting to ask about their needs, challenges, and how you can support them better. This direct approach not only shows that you value their input but also demonstrates a commitment to their well-being and professional satisfaction. This doesn’t have to be long – around 15-30 minutes is a good place to start – and let them know beforehand that it’s meant to be a supportive meeting, not an additional obligation!

Offer Flexibility and Support

Acknowledging the challenging and often unpredictable nature of their work, offering flexibility in schedules and workloads can be a significant form of support. Consider implementing strategies that help manage their workload more effectively or provide additional resources to assist with their tasks. This understanding and support can greatly enhance job satisfaction and effectiveness.

school-based OT month

Invest in Necessary Resources

Investing in the latest tools, materials, and therapeutic resources demonstrates a tangible commitment to your OTs and the students they serve. Whether it’s updating old equipment or introducing new technology, providing the right tools can significantly impact the quality of service OTs can deliver. 

Encourage Peer Recognition for OT Month

Creating a platform for peer recognition can foster a supportive and appreciative school culture. Allow staff and students to nominate OTs for special recognition, sharing stories of how they’ve made a difference. This not only boosts the therapist’s’ morale but also strengthens the community by highlighting the positive impact of their work.

Celebrating Occupational Therapy Month is more than just a series of events; it’s an opportunity to genuinely acknowledge and appreciate the hard work, dedication, and passion of school-based occupational therapists. Through thoughtful gestures, educational initiatives, and personal acknowledgments, you can show your OTs how much they are valued and appreciated. By investing in their professional growth, providing resources, and creating opportunities for recognition, you not only celebrate their contributions but also enhance the educational environment for everyone. Use OT Month as a stepping stone to foster a more inclusive, supportive, and collaborative school community, where you recognize and celebrate the unique contributions of all educators and therapists.

Got a school-based OT you want to celebrate? Consider getting them a resource from The Dynamic School OT! We have courses, templates, coaching, and more to help OTs feel effective and confident in their roles. Click here to learn more! 

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