Make Each School Day Count for the Most with These Proven Strategies
Let’s face facts: School-based therapy isn’t one of the more leisurely paced therapeutic services jobs out there.
Time spent working with and helping students is at the heart of what you do, but of course it doesn’t account for all the long hours you put in.
Your days also include planning interventions and documenting their effectiveness, collecting data and analyzing it, participating in Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meetings, conferencing with parents and guardians, training teachers and answering administrators’ questions, serving on school and district committees, traveling to multiple sites…
In other words, your workload is a lot bigger than just your caseload, as the American Occupational Therapy Association points out.
Are there practical steps busy school-based therapists can take to make the days flow more smoothly with less stress?
Absolutely. At PTS, we’re committed to helping you maximize your schedule so you can see and help the greatest number of students possible with the greatest efficiency. We can’t help you make your career in therapeutic services less busy, but we can help you make it less burdensome by showing you proven solutions that save time and produce better outcomes for your students, your school or district, and you.
Make Your Job as a School-Based Therapist More Effective and Efficient
Here are five strategies we recommend all professionals in therapeutic services jobs in school settings pursue to work as effectively and efficiently as possible:
- Perform interventions in group settings as often as appropriate.
Some students’ IEPs call for direct, one-on-one examples of therapeutic services, but whenever you can provide related services in a group setting you exponentially increase the amount of treatment time you provide. Thirty minutes with three students whose IEPs mandate half-hour interventions yields 90 minutes of IEP time. And pushing in to low-incidence classrooms—not “being pushy,” as The Inspired Treehouse explains for its readers, but making a “positive push” with services—makes you even more efficient. Group and push-in services don’t just benefit your schedule. They benefit students by minimizing disruption and keeping them with peers.
- Assess students only at the beginning or the end of your day.
Instead of blocking off big chunks of diagnostic time, set aside time as each day starts or ends for testing and evaluation. Let teachers and administrators know, “Here’s when I do assessments.” Establishing clear assessment windows cuts down on scheduling chaos and frees you to spend the bulk of your hours with students already on your caseload. It also gives you built-in time for taking care of other required tasks should no assessments be needed (just document your time accordingly.)
- Schedule one school building per day whenever possible.
If, like so many school-based therapists in the current climate of budget-squeezed districts and threatened federal cutbacks, you’re providing therapeutic services to students at multiple schools, make sure you’re not spending more time in your car than you are in the classrooms. Arrange your schedule so you spend all or most of one day at one school, meeting your weekly responsibilities before attending to the rest of your caseload in other buildings.
- Save the paperwork for when you can’t see students.
It may feel right to document each intervention as soon as it’s done. But spending 5-15 minutes on paperwork immediately after each half-hour session means you’re losing the chance to conduct two to three more sessions every day. You’re better off jotting down whatever quick notes are absolutely necessary, then sorting required forms into prioritized “buckets”—”do today” and “do later,” for instance—and handling them at once during whatever administrative time you’ve blocked off.
- Minimize your meeting attendance.
We’re not telling you to skip IEP or 504 Plan meetings altogether; they’re a “given” in therapeutic services jobs. But school policy permitting, set the expectation that you will speak first, present recommendations with supporting data, answer questions, and then be excused promptly. When continuing services as-is is the best plan, you could contact the family and present your recommendations beforehand. You have many students to serve. Even a single 60- or 90-minute meeting a week could mean six to nine other students miss the services they need.
Discover Even More Strategies for School-Based Success with PTS
Want more proven tips and techniques for maximizing your schedule, as well as mastering other key aspects of school-based therapeutic services jobs?
Then sign up for PTS’ School-Based Academy, our in-person and email training in which new therapists learn the ins and outs of success in this field. We hold live sessions twice monthly, August through November at our corporate office in Conshohocken, and send follow-up emails full of best practice reminders and practical resources you can use in your school-based therapist job right away.
For more information, contact PTS today.