Pediatric Therapeutic Services

Five Ways We Help Clinicians Switch to School-Based Practice

Female school-based therapist sits at classroom table where elementary students practice pencil grip in occupational therapy.A veteran Speech Language Pathologist told me her daughter was an Occupational Therapist (OT) seeking a job in school-based practice.

“No one will hire her without experience,” she said. “But, the only way to get experience is to get hired!”

Like any reputable therapy provider, we at Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) value experience. But, we also help clinicians looking to switch to school-based practice.

1. Showing New In-School Therapists the Ropes

In our School-Based Academy (SBA), we give new in-school therapists a “crash course” in the language and practical skills their new setting demands.

PTS Executive Director Candice Knox, OTR/L, says, SBA “Eliminates a lot of the fear and frustration that come with moving to school-based practice. It lets us take someone with strong clinical skills from another setting and help them make a positive impact in schools from day one.”

2. Giving School-Based Therapists On-Site Support

Our therapists can count on Clinical Directors, mentors, and all seasoned clinicians, to provide on-site modeling of best practices, guidance in difficult cases, and a shoulder to lean on.

I still make site visits and see how they help.

For example: A new physical therapist was working with a student who had hypotonia and coordination issues. This PT had an excellent neuro and orthopedic background, but no formal training on sensory processing disorder and how it affects quality of movement.

Once we discussed the child’s vestibular and proprioceptive deficits and did preparatory activities to address them, we saw immediate, exciting improvement.  

3. Helping Assess Student Eligibility for Related Services

One of new clinicians’ biggest challenges in school-based therapy is determining eligibility for services.Female therapist in school-based practice in empty elementary school classroom sits at student desk, smiling at camera.

In schools, students only qualify for services if identified deficits impact their ability to access their education. For example, a student with a prosthetic lower leg would only qualify for physical therapy if mobility or safety issues limited their participation in school activities. 

If our therapists wonder whether their clinical findings qualify a student, they can send their evaluations to their PTS Director or mentor for a second opinion. 

4. Advising Clinicians When Enough is Enough

Knowing when to discharge a student can be equally challenging.

Sometimes the student has met their goals and is ready to stop. Other times, the student has a significant long-term disability and isn’t demonstrating enough progress to justify ongoing direct treatment.

Clinical mentors can help therapists new to school-based practice strategize about making a student’s program more consultative and adaptive—or treatment-focused. 

5. Building Strong Professional Relationships

It’s not uncommon for school-based therapists to find themselves caught between concerned teachers, demanding parents, and budget-conscious administrators.

When mentors help new practitioners prepare for a difficult IEP meeting or due process case, they instill those therapists with confidence. They help clinicians hone their ability to present information clearly, listen respectfully, and compromise appropriately.

Let PTS Help You Succeed in School-Based Therapy Jobs

The heart of school-based practice is found in learning from another clinician who’s farther along in the journey.

At PTS, we know giving new therapists time and resources to grow as a person and a professional pay off. When we help them start strong, they finish strong!

Want to know more about changing to school-based practice—or even starting your career in this setting? Click to watch our free, on-demand webinar about providing therapy services in schools as an independent contractor.

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