Survive the Back-To-School Chaos with These Organization Tips!
Whether you are a new school therapist or have been in the field for a while, getting into an efficient routine is vital to your back-to-school success. PTS is dedicated to providing our clinicians with all of the information and resources necessary to effectively serve student and make a lasting impression within their school district. For this reason, we have compiled a list of our top back-to-school organization tips therapists like you can benefit from!
Six Back-To-School Organization Tips for Therapists
- Contact Key Professionals (and Parents)
- Reach out to your clinical director for a copy of your caseload. Also, ask for the contact information of the director of special education, principal(s) of the school building(s) you will work in, the person responsible for district email/badge, and the Individualized Educational Program (IEP) system contact person. Sending an email introducing yourself breaks the ice and allows you to acquire necessary information from each person. Visiting a professional’s office at an appropriate time is an even better form of contact. You can also send a welcome letter to the parents/guardians of the students you will work with. Along with a friendly and polite message, this letter should include the parent resource page and your district email, phone number, and other contact information. This can help parents feel comfortable later on when they learn you’ll be the therapist from the welcome letter!
- Review Your IEPs
- Access the IEP system before school begins to review documents on each of your students. The contact person may require a list of your caseload to add the students. While it is helpful to familiarize yourself with the entire IEP document, not all sections will relate directly to your services. The five main sections we recommend reviewing prior to beginning your treatment sessions are:
- Demographic Information: A list including names, ages, grades, dates of birth, parent information
- Present Education Levels: This section should provide a summary of each students’ current level of functioning related to each area of the IEP
- Goals/Objectives: A list indicating what each student is working towards
- Related Services/Support for School Personal: A confirmation of the frequency of direct, group, and consultative services
- Specially Designed Instruction: These are specific modifications, adaptations, or strategies for the student that need to be shared/reviewed with teachers and staff
While reviewing IEPs, keep a list of students in the same grade and also similar goals to get a rough idea of some groups that may work well together in practice.
- Build an Efficient Schedule
- At the beginning of the school year, try to schedule as many sessions as possible during in-service days, before the students enter the building, or after the first few days! Start with a few select time periods and expand your availability as needed. Some other tips for maintaining your work schedule are to:
- Download the schedule form and fill it out in pencil.
- Use sticky notes to move potential groups of students around.
- Schedule students with services more than once per week first; you’ll need more options! I try to schedule at least one of their sessions in a group.
- Schedule students who do not receives services in the learning support (LS) classroom ahead of those who spend a majority of the day in the LS classroom.
- Have as many time slots in the same building as possible before traveling to another school (i.e. half day in each building, instead of jumping back and forth).
- Set Up a Workspace
- Optimize your workspace! Before the year really takes off, ask your administrators if there is a space you can use as your home base. If no private space is available, check in with the learning support teachers, librarians, and gym teachers. Once you have a place to keep a few items, gather your supplies. A few notebooks, pencils, highlighters, scissors, and markers can go a long way at the start of the school year. Teachers (particularly art teachers) are a great resource for games/supplies to use during your sessions, as well.
- Get Organized
- Each therapist has different strategies and tools to stay organized; after all, organization tips for school-based therapists cannot be impactful if the therapist is not equipped with the right resources. Here are some that will certainly benefit you:
- PTS yearly planner
- Monthly calendar to track meetings, due dates, and more
- Daily documentation template/data collection forms
- Consult tracker/ACCESS billing tracker (For me, Excel sheets are the easiest to use)
- IEP/reevaluation system with due dates (so you can stay on top of impending reports!)
We recommend using a master binder with general information, a divider for each student which includes data sheets/documentation, and a folder that holds each student’s IEP—simple, efficient, and suitable for professional life!
- Locate School-Based Therapist Resources
- Now that you are organized, set-up, and ready to jump in with treatment sessions, gather some go-to sites for activity ideas! Here are just a few websites I have used and found useful:
- Tools to Grow, Inc. provides valuable tools to therapists, educators, special needs teachers, and parents to help engage children in specific performance areas.
- OTPlan helps pediatric occupational therapists strengthen and promote skills through activity planning.
- Your Therapy Source has free activities, handouts, and information sheets for special education teachers, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.
- Therapy Fun Zone shares activity ideas for working with children on developmental skills and creativity.
Wondering how else PTS can assist you with your career as a school-based therapist? For more back-to-school organization tips for therapists, or for more information about our services, please visit us here or contact us at 610-941-7020.