Celebrate OT Month All Year

Toole April Blog OT Month PosterCelebrate OT Month All Year

by Marie Toole, MS, OTR/L

on the School Tools From Your Pediatric   Occupational Therapist Blog


It is April…and Happy Occupational Therapy Month.  I’ve just returned from the AOTA conference in Chicago—one of the biggest conferences to date.  It is always exciting to go to the national conference and be amongst 10,000 colleagues and find the newest products out there or to listen to the latest trends and see the exciting research being done in our field.  It is an exhausting four days but invigorating at the same time.  If you get a chance to go to an AOTA conference take it….it is worth it!

So this got me thinking about how we, as school-based OT’s, can promote our profession year round.  Not just once a year in the month of April by putting up a bulletin board, but how do we keep OT in the forefront of the students, staff, and parents’ minds?  Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling…

August:  Desk and Chair checks

At the beginning of each school year, I go into most of the classrooms and make sure all the students fit properly into their desks.  I use the “10 feet on the floor” rule:  the student’s 2 legs and the 4 legs of the chair and desk all need to be on the floor at once.  desk and chairs toole ApriljpgThe classroom teacher and I make sure the chairs fit first and then find desks to match.  We have the students sit at their desks with their elbows resting on it.  In this position, they should be able to comfortably rest their chins on their open palm.  We try to mix and match within the classroom, but our custodians are great about moving desks up or down a few notches when needed.   Remember to check the computer lab too.  Since that room serves children from all grades, often the chairs do not fit properly.  As an adaptation, we often have foot rests (phone books duct taped together) for the students to rest their feet on.   For those classrooms I cannot reach, I always send an email reminder about how to properly size desks and chairs for students.


September:  Backpack Awareness Events

OT-Rex-Backpack-logoAOTA has wonderful resources for BackPack Safety Awareness Day.  As occupational therapists, we are in a perfect position to remind students and parents about proper purchasing and packing of backpacks that fit properly and do not weigh too much.  Backpacks are often too heavy for our little ones.  They should weigh no more than 15% of a child’s weight. (100 pound child=15 pound backpack, 50 pound child =7 pound backpack).  In the past, I have weighed backpacks as students come off the bus in the morning.  I make sure the principal puts a reminder in her weekly note to parents and I send home a flyer to parents as well.  Educating parents and students to “pack it light, pack it right” is always good advice.


October:  “Arnie and his School Tools”

By this point in the school year, the students have settled in somewhat and the routines have been established.  I try to get into the classrooms and read one of my favorite books “Arnie and his School Tools”.  This story is about a little boy who struggles to maintain attention and fidgets all day long.  His “teachers” help him to find tools and activities that help him.  I am sure that his OT helped him as well!  “With the right tools, everybody’s day goes a little smoother.”  We talk about different tools and strategies available in each classroom and how to use them as tools and not toys.


November:  Parent teacher Conferences

At the beginning of the school year when I send home my introductory letter to parents, I let them know I would love to come to their parent-teacher conference in November.  We find a mutually convenient time with the classroom teacher when I can give my OT update as well as find out how my students are doing in all other areas of the curriculum.  I love to connect with parents as early as possible in the school year to build that relationship.


December:  Cool Down strategies

The holidays are upon us and the students are very excited!  At this time of year the classroom teachers often request some ideas for cool down strategies.  When I have time, I like to go in and review classroom rechargers.  It is helpful to remind them that heavy work activities such as monthly warmups need to be done slowly and in control.   Deep breathing techniques that will keep our students in the just right zone for learning will make this month more manageable for everyone.  We encourage beefing up the use of Zones of Regulation tools and strategies during December to help everyone out!


movement Peggy_Marco pixabayJanuary:  Add in some movement

Now the cold and snow has settled in and there seems to be endless indoor recess days.  Now is the time to add more movement into the school day.  Click on the guy at the left to see my past blog post for ideas.


February:  Awards Days

All throughout the school year, I leave little awards for some of my students.  When their desk is clean and neat when I check it, I leave the “Clean Desk Award.”  When I see children holding their pencils correctly and using good spacing and line placement, I give out the “Golden Thumb Award.”  My favorite way to recognize students is called the “Sparkle Fairy.”  It is an opportunity for awarding students by catching them doing kind things for one another.  Once a week I dress up in a tutu and give out “Sparkles” in the cafeteria during every lunch period.  Both students and staff can win Sparkles and I am the lucky one who gets to award them weekly!  Students see me in the hallways during the week and are reminded to “fill a bucket” with sparkles!

Toole April Blog Sparkle Fairy


March:  Test taking strategies

We start our statewide testing in March.  I send home a “test taking strategies” tip sheet to parents of all third and fourth graders.  It includes some general reminders about getting a good night’s sleep and eating properly as well as reading the entire question and taking a deep breath.  The first and second grade classrooms “adopt” one of the third and fourth grade classrooms and decorate the classroom doors and leave little notes and cards on each day of testing.  As a school, we are all in this together and we try and support each other.   As occupational therapists, we are in a great position to remind both students and staff about stress management strategies.

test school ClkerFreeVectorImages Pixabay

Click here for a sample handout for

Test Taking Strategies!


April:  OT Month

Ahhh…my favorite month of the school year!  Bulletin boards outside the OT office tout some of the fun activities we do in OT.  Parents are in for conferences again, as well as the Book Fair, so lots of people see this.  I have my students write about the fun things they like best about OT for our monthly writing prompt.  At staff meeting this month, I will be giving out balloon buddies that a few fourth grade students and I made out of play-doh and balloons.   I wear my OT T-shirts as often as I can and I am participating in a Twitter challenge to post a picture a day for the month of April about what I do as a school-based OT.   Follow me on Twitter at @MarieTooleOTNH.


May:  Field Days

Does your school have Field Days?  The physical education teacher runs our field days and they are a blast!  A day filled with fun water games, races, and skills that every student participates in with their class.  You might think this is a perfect opportunity to get some paperwork done as your students are busy.  Wait…go play with them!  The students love to have the grownups in the buildings play alongside them.  Some of our students may have sensory overload and may just need a break or an easy tweak to an activity to enable them to still participate.  What better staff person than the OT can help with that?  Get out there and have some fun…you deserve it after the year you have had!  Field Day is one of my most favorite days of the school year!


June:  Summer Packets and Activity Calendars

As the school year comes to a close, I always put together a packet with some worksheets for practicing letters or maybe mazes or journaling pages.  Think rainy day fun ideas.  I also Toole April Blog Journalput together a calendar of fun activities for July and August so when the boredom sets in they can always find something to do on the calendar.  If the students bring back their calendar at the beginning of next yea,r they get to go into the prize box (pencils and awesome hand toys) which they love!  Parents always ask for ideas for summer fun.  If you make it fun and interesting they will want to keep at it.


So these are just a few ways to be noticed throughout the school year.  As school-based OT’s, we have an opportunity to interact with our “clients” whether they be staff, administrators, students, or parents on a regular basis.  Parents and community members are in our schools all the time.  Let your OT light shine all year through!  I think we have the best job in the world…let your world know that all year!  Happy OT Month!



Marie TooleMarie L. Toole, MS, OTR/ L, is a pediatric occupational therapist with 28 years experience in NICU, Early Intervention, and private practice with the last 20 years spent working in public schools. She is NBCOT and SIPT certified as well as a member of AOTA and NHOTA.  She lives in southern New Hampshire and can be reached at toolem@sau25.net.  Follow her on Twitter @MarieTooleOTNH, on Pinterest marietooleNHOT, and on School Tools for Pediatric Occupational Therapists  where she tweets, pins, and posts about OT, education, autism, and sensory integration, as well as other school related topics.

 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  
Photos are the property of the author or site owners and their use should include the link provided to the contributor’s source.  


Photo Credits:  Movement by Peggy_Marco on Pixabay.

Desk and Chairs:  https://pixabay.com/en/children-kids-sitting-chair-little-483146/


Celebrate OT Month All Year

Three Easy Ways to Thank a School OT!


 Three Easy Ways to Thank a School OT!  by Stacy M. Turke on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog


Three Easy Ways to Thank a School OT!

 by Stacy M. Turke

on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog




If you are reading this blog post in April, are you ever lucky!  April is Occupational Therapy Month, and had you waited to read this in May, you’d have missed the opportunity to say “Thanks!” to your School OT for the work he or she does to support the students in your school and in your life during “our” celebration month.  I feel so blessed to have been able to work alongside the intelligent, creative, authentic OT staff at Ingham Intermediate School District over these past 30 years, who daily support my growth as a clinician and as a human.  In this post I say thanks to them and offer suggestions for creative ways to say “Thanks” to your own school OT staff!

(Caveat: we will accept cards, flowers, and chocolates at any point during the month of April in celebration of OT Month!  However, keep reading for cheaper and more meaningful ideas…)


Thanks Turke

Three Easy Ways to Thank Your School OT


Perhaps you have a student who struggles to complete written work or to copy sentences from the board.  Or maybe you’ve noticed that one or two of your students have more difficulty than their peers staying focused during large group lessons, especially on “indoor recess” days.  So you’ve called your School OT for help.  After offering several possible fixes for the challenge, your OT goes on to the next classroom or school and you embark on trying out these ideas within your classroom.  Saying thanks for these efforts is easy.  After agoal-clipart-stickguygraphrgb week or two, simply share your feedback with your OT about how things are working out!  You have no idea how much we appreciate getting this kind of feedback from our teachers and parents!  Truly, hearing that a strategy is the answer that you’ve been looking for really warms my heart and is all the thanks I need.  And if the strategies AREN’T working, or if part of the problem is resolving and you want to bounce new ideas off your OT, please share that feedback too.  We have access to all sorts of Evidenced Based Practices and often know what typically helps most challenges that kids face at school.  But we don’t work with cookie-cutter students and neither do you. The data you collect and the feedback you offer helps us to help you and other kids like your students.  Help us help you and WE are the thankful ones!



Therapy Room TurkePlease invite us into your classrooms!  This can be as simple as asking us to observe how a particular student is engaging with a piece of equipment or learning tool that we provided.  Maybe one of our mutual students has just experienced some type of breakthrough and you want to share.  Or you might want to bounce an alternative seating or classroom arrangement idea off us.  Oh my goodness, do we ever love these kinds of opportunities!  I have worked with several schools this year, at their request, to assess and help redesign classrooms to increase movement opportunities and enhance learning for kids.  I was initially overwhelmed with the thought of getting into all the classrooms and providing inservice to an entire school staff given the high workload already in place.  But the impact that this service had on the school cannot fully be measured in time or in increased test scores alone.  I’m able to support many students in a rather short amount of time and I’m feeling valued as an OT and as a colleague.  A “thank you” coffee is nice…but valuing someone’s work goes such a long way.


How about that student in your room who has Direct OT services and who has suddenly smile and chalkboard geralt pixabaystarted to soar using the strategies you and the OT have mutually put in place?  PLEASE share copies of that student’s classroom work with the OT so that we can share in the joy of success too!  I recently had just such a thing happen and I will not quickly come down from that heartwarming experience.  I have a third grader on my caseload who has always been a very reluctant writer for a variety of good reasons.  This child has been on caseload for several years, and while the work within the OT setting has improved, this has not transitioned easily to the general education setting.  This child has been very reluctant to give up the one-on-one time to allow “push in” services, again for a variety of good reasons.  Typical classroom-based writing assignments for this child yield a page of writing at most, though usually the work completion was much shorter than that.  So imagine my surprise when this teacher colleague of mine approached me a couple weeks ago with a paper in her hand and a twinkle in her eye.  She said, “You’ve got to see what our student wrote for me today!”  I glanced down at the stapled pages in my hand and saw this particular boy’s name at the top and his very familiar writing all over the page.  I flipped through ALL 5 PAGES, completely full of text, and looked up at the teacher who was just beaming.  I checked out the title of his paper and immediately felt tears come to my eyes.  The title? “Working with Ms. Turke!” This boy wrote 5 full pages about what going to OT was like.  He described in (mostly accurate) detail what we do and why, and he ended it with, “She is always nice to me, and I love her!”  I think this teacher knew what a tremendous impact this paper would have on me.  Her smile and hug said it all.  Celebrating this child’s new found confidence with his teacher was one of the greatest “thank you” gifts I have ever received.


I’ve been blessed to work with some of the most generous, knowledgeable, creative OT colleagues over the years, all of whom have contributed to my ongoing growth as an OT.  The folks I work with are quick to share therapy activity ideas and information on current research articles.  Without sharing identifying information, we consult with one another when a student isn’t making the progress we had hoped for and we are looking for other intervention ideas.  We mentor one another in district procedures and processes.  We celebrate successes together.  And we do what OTs do best:  we help each other complete the occupations of the job with greater ease and efficiency.  To Jennie, Jane, Cindy, Angie, Donna, Jodie, Mya, Ellen, Paula, Trish, Sue, Leanne, Liz, Cheryl, Amy, Allison, Kari, Ken, Tammy, Kelly, Jessica, and Marge, (and any others who worked at Ingham but whose names I’ve missed), I say Thank You.  From the bottom of my heart.  Happy OT Month, Friends!

Group Picture Turke



Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L:   “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.”  Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.”  Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas.  She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!”  You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.



“Thanks” image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

“Stick Guy Graphing” image courtesy of Clipart Panda.

“Chalkboard Smile” image courtesy of geralt on Pixabay.com.





Three Easy Ways to Thank a School OT!