The Best Items for School-Based OT

As a school-based OT, it’s important to have a variety of tools and resources at your disposal to help support the diverse needs of your students. Whether you’re working with students who have physical, cognitive, or emotional difficulties, having the right materials can make a big difference in the success of your therapy sessions. While every caseload will differ, I hope this list gives you some ideas for your students!

Fine and Visual Motor Items for School-Based OT

Fine motor skill building tools can help students improve their dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and handwriting. Some popular options include:

  • crayons (including broken crayons)
  • colored pencils
  • markers
  • pens
  • small/golf pencils 
  • mechanical pencils
  • Twist N Write pencils
  • erasers 
  • pencil sharpener
  • pencil grippers
  • slant boards
  • clipboards 
  • laminator/lamination sheets
  • Legiliner
  • WooTape
  • variety of lined paper types
  • construction paper
  • highlighters
  • permanent markers
  • dry erase markers 
  • small whiteboards
  • paint/paintbrushes 
  • bingo daubers
  • left- and right-handed scissors
  • spring-loaded scissors
  • squeeze/loop scissors
  • tabletop scissors
  • bubble tongs/bug catchers
  • clothes pins
  • tweezers
  • tongs 
  • clothing fastener boards
  • lacing cards
  • putty
  • Play-Doh
  • Play-Doh tools
  • puzzles
  • Legos
  • Squigz
  • blocks
  • mazes 

Gross Motor Items for School-Based OT

Gross motor skill building tools can help students improve their balance, coordination, and strength. Some examples include:

  • therapy balls
  • Bosu ball
  • play balls
  • balance boards
  • obstacle courses
  • scooter boards
  • tunnels
  • mats 
  • wedges

    Sensory Items for School-Based OT

    Sensory tools can help students become ready for learning, regulate their emotions, and focus their attention. Some popular options include:

    • fidget tools
    • stress balls
    • chew tools
    • noise-canceling headphones
    • sensory bins
    • study carrels 
    • therabands 
    • wiggle cushions
    • wobble stools
    • other alternative seating
      The Best Items for School-Based OT

      If your school has a sensory room, you may also want to consider the following items:

      • steam roller
      • crash pad
      • sensory floor tiles
      • swings
      • trampoline
      • alternative seating
      • light wall
      • bubble tube 
      • light covers
      • body sock

      Some school-based OTs also used weighted items in their school-based practice, though the evidence on this is limited.  

      Social-Emotional Regulation Items for School-Based OT

      Social-emotional resources can help students improve their communication, interaction, and regulation skills. Some popular options include:

      • social stories
      • conversation starters
      • emotion flashcards
      • visuals 
      • Zones of Regulation 

      Assistive Technology Items/Programs for School-Based OT

      Assistive technology can help students with disabilities participate in activities more independently. Some examples include:

      • switch-adapted toys/appliances
      • tablets/iPads
      • stylus 
      • Write Right Stylus
      • Read&Write for Google Chrome 
      • Co:Writer 
      • SnapType 
      • ModMath 
      • Equatio 
      • Clicker 
      • Bookshare 
      • Learning Ally
      • Resoomer 
      • Grammarly
      • Snap&Read
      • Writing Wizard
      • LWT Wet Dry Try
      The Best Items for School-Based OT

      Executive Function Items for School-Based OT

      Executive function supports help students initiate tasks, complete schoolwork, and stay organized. Some options are:

      • visual timers
      • planners
      • color-coded folders
      • visuals 

      Adaptive Equipment for School-Based OT

      Adaptive equipment helps modify daily tasks for students to more easily participate. Some options to consider are:

      • EazyHold/universal cuffs
      • built-up utensils
      • weighted utensils  
      • non-slip bowls and plates
      • scoop bowls
      • plate guards
      • rocker knife
      • Dycem
      • jar openers
      • bidet 
      • button hook
      • shoe horn
      • sock aid
      • alternative shoelaces
      • reacher 
      • adaptive clothing

      Classroom Modifications for School-Based OT

      Classroom modifications can help students with physical or cognitive difficulties participate more fully in their education. Some examples include:

      • adaptive seating
      • alternative seating
      • visual aids
      • velcro 
      • footstools 

      Games for School-Based OT

      Therapy games and activities can make therapy sessions more engaging and fun for students. Some popular options include:

      • board games
      • card games 
      • role-playing games
      • memory games

      Other Considerations When Buying Items for School-Based OT

      This list represents just some of the items you might want to consider to have an effective school-based occupational therapy program. If you’re looking for more support for school-based OT treatment planning, check out this article full of worksheets, activities, and other resources that you can find online

      It’s also important to keep in mind that not all of these items will be appropriate for every student, so it’s important to tailor your selection to the specific needs of your students. Additionally, it’s important to work closely with other members of the school’s special education team, including teachers, to ensure that the resources you provide are used to their fullest potential. Personally, I mostly push into the classroom, so I focus on obtaining items that support that style of therapy, and usually leave the items in the class so my student always has access to them. 

      One other thing to note is that you should never spend your own money on therapy items. I know, I know. It’s so tempting. But for those of you who are ready to hear it, I want you to know why this practice ends up being harmful for your students.

      It’s rooted in good intentions, right? School districts are often strapped for cash, but you want your students to have the best experience possible. So you hit up the Target dollar spot to buy treatment materials, fun games, or incentives.

      No biggie – it’s 5 bucks here, 20 bucks there. You’ll “write it off” on your taxes later. And you can justify it because you’re enriching the therapy experience for your students, right?

      Maybe in the short-term. But in the long-term, this is not a sustainable practice. There will come a time when you can’t keep funding therapy out of your own pocket. Maybe it’s because you need something specialized that they don’t sell at Dollar Tree. Maybe it’s because it’s something SUPER expensive. Maybe it’s just that your partner lost their job and you no longer have the discretionary income you used to.

      No matter the scenario, something will happen that will require you to go to your district for funding. And do you know what your admin will think?

      It’s not going to be the warm and fuzzy, “Aww, our OT never asks for anything – let’s just give it to her.”

      Their thought process is going to be a lot more along the lines of, “We have never had to increase the budget in this area before. Why now? And is what they’re asking for justified and truly necessary?”

      Remember: you are providing a service that is legally required and educationally necessary. That means that as hard as it might be to budget, your school district needs to give you the materials you need to do your job effectively.

      I hope these items to keep in your school-based OT arsenal gave you some ideas! With the right tools and resources, you can help your students succeed in school and beyond. And if you’re looking for even more support with your school-based practice, be sure to check out The Dynamic School OT Course. There’s a huge module on intervention strategies/treatment planning as well as resources on evaluation, scheduling, and recommending services. See you there soon!

      2 thoughts on “The Best Items for School-Based OT”

      1. Andres Olivares

        Hello. I am Andres and I have been an OT in the schools for 10 months. However, I still feel lost. Is it normal to feel lost and not know what you are doing in the first year?

      Comments are closed.

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