by Molly Shannon, MS, OTR/L, ATP, on the ATandOT Blog
As an OT with over 30 years’ experience in working in public schools and in assistive technology, I feel a key contribution we provide to our special needs students is that of being a wonderful source for a wide variety of resources for our team members and families. In the schools as OT practitioners, we strive to maximize function and independence in our students in order to facilitate their access to their educational program. The following sources and resources are my professional favorites and are top-notch.
1. A Little Bit of This and That: Evaluation/Frequencies/504 Plans/Workloads:
A. Systemic Decision-Making Process for OT/PT Services, guidelines for evaluation/frequencies from NSSEO. These type of rubrics are to assist districts or schools in provision of consistent recommendations to the IEP teams (always considering the individualized goals and needs).
B. Assessment Sources:
1. Consider this writing assessment tool by a well-known OT. It is such a reasonably priced resource that has been out in various forms through the years and now is available commercially. The Writing Protocol by Denise DeCoste, Ed. D, OTR, is only $25 and is available as a download from Don Johnston, Inc.
2. Speech Recognition as AT for Writing, an excellent, free booklet with tons of assessment and training ideas for AT for writing by Daniel Cochrane and Kelly Key
3. While there are some excellent handwriting assessment tools available commercially, this is a rubric for assessment which is a great tool. Free handout: Handwriting Assessment Rubric
4. As OTs, we are often asked just what are the norms for handwriting speeds in the schools for students without disabilities as a point of reference for our students with special needs. Here is a free guide: Handwriting Speeds for Copying Tasks
5. Here is another nice reference tool for Handwriting and Keyboarding Rates
6. Thorough guide from a school AT team from the Boulder Valley School District. School-based Writing AT Evaluation: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Paul Visvader, AT Coordinator) download free PDF booklet from bottom of book in “book” section)
C. 504 Plans are often misunderstood. Check out this excellent source for Understanding 504 Plans explained so well from website Understood. This is a fantastic website with a broad range of supports for professionals and parents.
D. This is a hot topic throughout the US and that is OT workloads! This is a source from my state that is well done and highly respected that can help with caseloads in a fair manner. Determining FTE and Workloads for OT, PT, and SLPs (UNC) AOTA has several excellent articles for members regarding converting “Caseload to Workload,” as well.
2. OTs Ya’ll Need to Follow: there are so many available, but these are my favs!
A. Sugar Aunts
B. OTs with Apps and Technology
C. Growing Hands On Kids
D. Your Therapy Source
E. Inspired Treehouse (an OT and a PT blog):
F. MamaOT and love this post “What’s in My Therapy Box” about the 60+ items that are in her therapy box
G. Handwriting with Katherine a super EBP blog about all things handwriting
H. Lemon Lime Adventures: a great sensory resource, this is a great blog “Sensory Break Ideas for Kids”
I. 20+ OT Blogs to Grow Your OT Career: blog post by OT Potential
J Not an OT, but David Banes has a wealth of current technology and inclusion articles in his newsletter: AT and Inclusion Newsletter
K. Plugs! Our collaborative blog for school OTs: Go to For OT by OTs: Stacy Turke, Marie Toole, April Franco and me! Plus my own blog, AT and OT
3. Gotta See AT Resources:
A. OCALI and ATIM, amazing info and free online training resources for exceptional children and AT. These are two must see resources!
B. Jane Farrell excellent guide to “Switch Accessible Apps for iPad and iPhone” and she has one for AAC apps as well on her website.
C. My handout from my 2016 AOTA presentation about Technology/apps for Prewriting, Handwriting and Writing
D. AT Solutions for Students with Visual Impairments (Low, Medium, and High Tech)
E. With all of the Chromebooks available in schools now and with so many speech options and others available, this is a great guide to a variety of extensions: 21 Google Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs
4. Some Rockin’ Resources from North Carolina!
A. From a great SLP who provides many free adapted books or icons: Chapel Hill Snippets
B. Tar Heel Reader has thousands of free books developed by and for those with disabilities with adapted access and speech options.
5. Website Wonders: these sites work so well with SmartBoard activities and especially with wireless/wired switch access methods:
A. Priory Woods (variety of access methods) wide array of engaging videos
B. Jacob’s Lessons: a website with many free online activities developed by a father of a child with autism.
C. Some more excellent and FREE online switch activities from Ian Bean.
6. Social Stories Galore
7. Power in Numbers!
A. Check out and join our 22k strong Facebook Group: Pediatric Occupational Therapists. OT practitioners ask for help and gets tons of responses on this closed group.
B. There are a wealth of OT resources (over 4K) on Teachers Pay Teachers. My favs are Jan McClesky, OTR, Gift of Curiosity, Jennifer Hier, Autism Adventures or Autism Helper. Please share yours with me in the comments.
C. Pinterest: how can you be a school OT and not love Pinterest to find great free printables, resources, and activity ideas? Remember that most of the bloggers noted above also have Pinterest boards. Check out my boards for OT, EC, AT, academia, and more: Molly Shannon, MS, OTR/L, ATP Pinterest Board
While we wear many important hats working in the schools as OTs, being a go-to source for a wide variety of information and resources is vital in our provision of quality services to our students, their educational team, and their families. I hope that you’ve discovered a few new gems to help you in your job as a school OT. Please share with me any of your favorite, must-have resources, as well!
Molly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989. She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program. You can connect with Molly on Twitter site, Pinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.
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