Reduce Referrals and Help Student Manage Their Own Behaviors
Can you help a second grader struggling to write neatly? A third grader who can’t sit still? What about a kindergartener who cannot hold a pencil?
As an occupational therapist, you probably cannot count how many times you have been asked these questions. While you would probably bend over backward to assist students in need, helping them understand self-regulation strategies could be the better option for long-term success.
If you are wondering how you can reduce referrals in your district, PTS, Inc. has that answer and many more pieces of advice. As a therapy and related services staffing agency, we give school-based occupational therapists like yourself tips on connecting with teachers and administrators. In doing so, you can approach self-regulation in the classroom as a team. Below are five steps you can take to initiate the implementation of these strategies in students.
Five Steps to Execute Strategies and Achieve Self-Regulation in Students
- Build Rapport: First and foremost, it is critical that you build relationships with your administrative team, teachers, and support staff. Frequent communication encourages coworkers to respect your opinions and suggestions as well as trust your advice and ideas. Whether you are new or have been working as a school-based therapist for a few years, you want to let your coworkers know you are committed to supporting not only the students on your caseload but also the building as a whole.
- Educate Teachers and Staff: Once you build professional relationships, you can encourage teachers and support staff to explore new strategies to empower students. Emailing your coworkers about resourceful websites helps them learn individually and opens an outlet for questions on the subject of self-regulation. Here are some great resources you may consider sharing.
- Teacher Resources: PTS, Inc. has a webpage dedicated to educating teachers. There, educators can learn about a range of therapy and related service topics, watch training videos, and download an information packet on behavior management.
- Tip Lists for All Occasions: The Inspired Treehouse, Growing Hands-On Kids, and The Anonymous OT have awesome handouts for occupational therapists. You can share them with teachers and other coworkers that may benefit from learning about the work you do!
- Activity Ideas: Connect and work with others in your district by brainstorming therapy and classroom activities together!
- Provide Resources: This year, my principle and I created a grab-and-go cart full of materials for teachers. Teachers can sign out items for anyone in their classroom for trial. Most of the time, teachers have asked for input on what items to try. As they become more accustomed to the cart as a resource, though, they have begun exploring and choosing items on their own!The cart is stocked with weighted and mechanical pencils, erasable pens, golf pencils, marble fidgets, kneadable erasers, coil keychains, balance balls, ergoErgo seats, t-stools, Coleman stadium seats, adaptive writing paper, and clipboards. The availability of these materials can not only instill confidence in teachers but also empower students by utilizing these objects correctly.
- Utilize the Multi-Tiered Support System/Response to Intervention Model: Educating staff members and stocking teachers’ inventory may certainly decrease referrals—but what else can be done to directly help students keep their behavior under control in the classroom?Occupational therapists can organize small groups through the MTSS/RTII model to support students that teachers identify as having some areas of concern. These groups can address handwriting skills, fine motor skills, visual motor and/or visual perceptual skills, and, yes, self-regulation needs. There are available resources to guide you when organizing self-management activities for students. I personally recommend Pencil Power, which helps students learn therapeutic strategies so they can strengthen their fine motor, visual motor, and handwriting skills. Another activity is Super Self, which encourages students to build sensory awareness in order to create personalized, self-regulation programs. I also create self-regulation worksheets and homework for my small student groups based on resources I find online. Some additional websites you may consider browsing for your own work include WorkSheetFun, Your Therapy Source, Eye Can Learn, and Pinterest.
- Check Off Your Responsibilities During This Process: There are a few things you want to remember when organizing a group session with this model. First, seek parents’ approval through a signed waiver explicitly stating that their child’s participation in the group does not necessarily indicate their need for school-based occupational therapy services. Second, you should have pre- and post-data to track student progress and identify continued areas of needs. A self-reporting questionnaire about tools, emotions, and successful strategies can be effective for fulfilling these responsibilities. It is also crucial to communicate strategies and tips with teachers and parents/guardians to facilitate the carryover of skills. A quick sheet on what you addressed that week and one or two focus areas for the following week can help others understand what to focus on without becoming too overwhelming.
Looking for additional assistance or information about self-regulation strategies? PTS, Inc. can help. Contact our office here or call us at 610-941-7020.