Occupational Therapy Success in “Kindergarten Boot Camp”
Almost all the special education directors we at Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) speak with say they’re seeing more and more kindergartners arriving at school without the fundamental skills for success.
The vast majority of these young students don’t have a disability. They simply lack exposure to and practice in visual motor and fine motor activities (likely because they’ve had too much screen time!).
While using our proprietary BudgetWatch™ software to perform some routine budgetary analysis for one of our client districts, we found kindergarten Occupational Therapy (OT) referrals had gone through the roof!
By January, we’d already evaluated 15 kindergarteners. And that number didn’t include students who’d already transitioned to kindergarten through Early Intervention. So some of our first grade Occupational Therapy referrals probably came about because those kids had moved on before mastering such basic skills as tracing, drawing, cutting, or catching a ball.
We immediately implemented some short-term fixes—for example, giving kids who were struggling with fine motor skills pencil grips and adaptive pencils. But the PTS Clinical Director working with the district knew the situation needed a stronger, sustainable solution.
Collaborating with special education and elementary school staff, we developed a program we now call “Kindergarten Boot Camp.”
Our Proactive Kindergarten OT Solution Gets Real Results
We planned to start the next school year by making skill-building activities part of the classroom routine—classic Tier 1 interventions, from a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) perspective.
We’d provide this program to all kindergarten classrooms 20 minutes a day for six weeks.
On day one, an Occupational Therapist would present a lesson in and demonstration of one of our target skill areas:
- Postural Control—to increase stability and strength in the head and torso.
- Visual Perceptual—to bolster such capacities as visual attention and discrimination, spatial relations, and sequential memory.
- Manual Dexterity/Grasp—to hold and move crayons, pencils, and small objects.
- Visual Motor—to achieve better hand-eye coordination for coloring, writing, tying shoelaces, and more.
Then, on days two through five, the teacher would reinforce the target skill by leading the same activity or incorporating it into a classroom learning center.
All the activities used low-cost or recycled materials—pipe cleaners, cylindrical potato chip cans, small plastic beads, and the like.
The program achieved amazing results. Requests for kindergarten OT screenings fell by 40%. And OT evaluations went down 66%!
Even more exciting, students were getting early and frequent exposure to and practice in these skills, at a very low cost to the district. Far fewer kindergartners were qualifying for OT, meaning short- and long-term costs were down.
Delivering Quality Supports to Students Without Breaking Your Budget
Making a positive difference in kids’ lives is the most satisfying part of our work at PTS.
But we also take pride in improving special education programs while controlling costs. The two goals aren’t mutually exclusive!
Our model gives all students who need support what they need, without necessarily giving them direct access to related services.
Empowering teachers and other building staff with tools therapists use encourages them to rely on therapists as a resource for the whole building—not just the students who get 30 minutes of therapy a week.
PTS’ approach fosters an environment we call the Therapeutic EcosystemTM turning classrooms into therapeutic environments. With a great Team, the right Tools, and guidance from our Technology, we transformed this district’s program without ballooning their budget.
We can do the same for you!
To get started, call us at 610-941-7020, or contact us online today.