Use These Innovative Tools to Integrate Therapy into the Classroom
“How can we deliver therapy without the therapist?”
That’s the question we at Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) knew we had to answer. We wanted to deliver related services more effectively and efficiently than others could. Meeting that goal ultimately meant developing a wide range of new tools for occupational and speech-language therapy.
But before we could create them, we had to challenge and change a decades-old mindset.
Replacing “Old-School” Therapy with Daily Therapeutic Fitness
In the old model for school-based therapy, clinicians delivered services to students in a controlled, isolated environment outside the classroom and far from the view of teachers and aides.
What worked? What didn’t? Only the occupational or speech therapist really knew—and that was the problem.
As any therapist will tell you, the traditional 30 minutes per week of direct service from a clinician isn’t enough to drive real, positive change in students’ outcomes.
Therapeutic strategies are a lot like an exercise program. If you work out only once a week for 30 minutes, you’re NOT going to see big improvements in your fitness. Becoming fit requires you to change your lifestyle, incorporating healthy habits into your day, every day.
If we wanted to see students’ outcomes really improve, we knew they needed more than a weekly half-hour of therapy. So we needed to get proven therapeutic strategies into the hands of people who work with students day in and day out. Teachers and classroom assistants would be key players in getting speech-language and occupational therapy into the classroom without relying on therapists.
Equipping Teachers with Proven “DIY” Therapy Tools
Recognizing direct therapy’s high costs and school districts’ limited resources, we decided to multiply our services’ impact through targeted interventions and accessible, adaptable therapeutic tools.
First, we consolidated our existing resources—teacher handouts, informational links, ideas for the classroom—into a physical handbook. We printed dozens of handouts and organized them in three-ring binders for each school we served.
Today, that resource is a robust, free online teacher resource library. It’s full of practical “DIY” occupational and speech-language therapy tools and techniques. Because it’s free and open to all, schools in more than a dozen developing countries benefit from it, too.
Expert clinicians designed these supports. They extensively trialed each one with students. With these resources, teachers can address a variety of speech-language and occupational issues children face without making referrals or taking kids out of the classroom.
Giving Teachers the Pediatric OT Equipment They Want
As we investigated what was driving therapy referrals, we learned many teachers wanted pediatric occupational therapy equipment like pencil grips or a Move and Sit Cushion. The only way they knew to get “all that therapy stuff” was to ask for students to receive therapy evaluations.
This realization led us to create Trial Supply Boxes.
The boxes contain a small collection of equipment and supplies therapists typically use to see whether students need months of direct service or just a “quick fix.” They also include an instruction manual. We give the boxes to elementary school buildings in particular and have building therapists introduce them at a staff meeting whenever possible.
By empowering teachers with these inexpensive, readily available tools for therapy, we avoid unnecessary referrals and costly diagnostics. Best of all, students get help quickly and efficiently.
Integrating Therapy into The Capable Classroom™
We still had to figure out what to do for students who DID have functional issues but didn’t qualify for therapy. Teachers and administrators recognized the need. But education law and budget constraints made interventions for these children unfeasible.
How could we keep them from falling through the cracks? PTS tapped our top clinicians’ creative energy with a contest for new ideas to help bridge the gap.
In 2013, PTS Executive Director Candice Knox, OTRL, had a vision for bringing actual therapeutic treatment to students who’d otherwise go unserved. She created a game called Pencil Power™, based on our well-known handwriting program and the classic “Candy Land” board game. The game incorporates many exercises used in therapy sessions. Players are practicing visual motor and perceptual strategies while they have fun with their peers.
We added the Pencil Power Fine Motor Kit specifically for Kindergarteners. It gives teachers a whole month of hand-strengthening and motor control activities to use with students. These activities mirror those used during an OT treatment.
Artic Blast™ soon followed. That’s no typo in the name! The game is one of our most popular speech therapy articulation activities. Kids get cues for making correct sounds as they play. It’s fun and fast-paced, and doesn’t require speech language pathologists to run it.
We continue to offer these and a host of other materials, all designed and tested by PTS therapists in the school buildings we serve. They’re vital tools for making any classroom a Capable Classroom™ where seamlessly integrated therapy benefits all children.
Change the Way Your Schools Think About Therapy
Writer Jeff Duntemann said, “A good tool improves the way you work. A great tool improves the way you think.”
The great innovative occupational and speech-language therapy tools we’ve developed have changed the way school professionals think about therapy.
They train teachers and aides to implement the strategies clinicians employ.
They get students the support they need without disrupting classroom instruction.
And they do it while saving school districts time and money.
In the districts and buildings using our tools, people no longer think of therapy as isolated and interruptive. They now see it as an integral part of all students’ learning. And it’s this change in mindset that transforms ordinary classrooms into truly therapeutic environments.
Want to put PTS’ resources to work for the students in your schools?
Call us today at 610-941-7020, or contact us online to claim a free audit of your related services program. We’ll show you how not only our tools but also our team and technology can make the special education your district offers more effective and cost-efficient.