Monday, August 21, 2017

50+ Scheduling Tips for School Based Therapists

Scheduling Tips School Based THerapistsScheduling Tips for School-Based Therapists

Over the last few weeks, the Your Therapy Source survey was on scheduling tips for school-based therapists.  It was a simple two question survey: what is your job title and what is your best suggestion for creating therapy schedules?  You can answer the current survey here.
For question #1, the majority respondents (66%) were occupational therapists.
Here are the 50+ responses to the question: what is your best suggestion for creating therapy schedules?
Group by school, then consider eligibility/meeting days, then best time to see students that day dependent on individual goals/class fine motor or visual motor time.
In the school based setting, one needs to schedule according to teachers schedules in school; some are more flexible than others.
Check with teachers regarding classroom schedules including reading and math blocks, specials (PE, art, music, etc.). I usually ask them for the best and worst time to see students. Check student goals to see which can be accomplished in the classroom (and therefore helpful to teacher too) and match up students with similar goals and level of function.
I am a teletherapist so I use a shared google calendar for one of my schools so that my paraprofessional can see when I am available and so that she can schedule my students during my available time. For my virtual students, I send the parents an email using the mixmax add on so that they are able to click their time preference. If I am available, it automatically schedules them on my google calendar. If I am not available, then they can choose another option from the times in my email.
google calender
I wish I knew
Be flexible, Write in Pencil, Schedule middle and high school first, as their schedules are typically less flexible.
Begin with a pencil! I have a loose schedule the first 2 weeks of school. I usually coordinate with the speech therapist first since they usually see the student multiple times per week. I have also found that if I schedule a school on meeting days I have a better chance of being the only related service that sees students on that day. If I miss a student that day due to a meeting, I can add them with another student that same day!
Outlook Calendar so it syncs with those scheduling meetings and can be shared with select teachers, admin etc…..
Go to the teachers first and find out when is the best time to schedule their students.
I have a schedule starter sheet. It is a list with an empty day schedule on the left side to be filled out as I establish good times to see the student. On the right, it lists the student’s name, grade, teacher, IEP date and service time, lunch and special times, and I get from the teachers the best time to see the students (so I avoid instruction time). On the top of the sheet, it has the school hours, and a grid for a list of the different service providers for that school, PE teacher, school nurse. I use this sheet throughout the school year to add new students, or mark when they have moved out of district. I go around to all of my schools, get the individual calendars and the staff list with phone extensions, the specials, lunch, and recess schedules. I schedule the schools with the largest number of students first, and then fill in with the schools with fewer students.
Determine need of districts sped students, With job description, allot time needed for paperwork and collaboration. Curriculum of students should communicate needs or gaps that OT can help with…if we are “academic based”.
I wish I knew
Consolidate holiday sessions
Schedule older students and those who receive all services first
I make three different options for each child then regardless of who is absent I have alternatives to who is available for any given block of time. It really is less work than it sounds.
Schedule the hardest students to fit into an OT schedule. Schedule students that are in the middle school first as they change classes. then scheduled the elementary students who are in the same class throughout the day.
If possible, bring the entire team (teachers and other therapists) together to work out mutually compatible schedules so it’s not a “race” to see who claims their “day” first. If that could be done at the schools where you spend the most time, then hopefully other schools, with small caseloads, will be flexible with what’s left of your time and things will work! It’s worth hoping!!
Get the whole school schedule and then build in your times around recess/lunch specials. Push into language arts
Communicate directly with teachers and other therapists, and be flexible! Teachers know how to pair students well.
put it in pencil- you know you are going to have to change it 100 times!
Flexibility! Speaking with the student’s teacher is of course, an initial contact that must be made to ensure smooth scheduling. Showing an investment in the student and communicating a respect for the teacher’s predetermined classroom time and scheduling sets off the year to a good start. I try to find natural lulls during the school day — planned movement breaks or recess plus or minus a few minutes. I try to avoid pulling students during those times in the day when I’ve observed them come most alive in the classroom. (That is calendar time for some of my kiddos!). Routine is really important to most of my students, and I try to give them this consistency as often as I can.
I am still working on it!!! Our supervisor tells us what day to go to each school so within the day I have to figure out when to see the kids.  First I plug in who may go home early, then when each grades lunch and specials are. Then I look at IEP to see what subject OT supports. Try to fit it all into a puzzle by hand. I do best with sticky note tabs or pencil and paper.
Coordinating between school administration and other therapy services.
I try to set a day and time frame for the building (ie Thursday afternoons) when asking classroom teachers for serving the students. I then ask for their schedule,and find opportunities within their own schedule, and then work towards supporting the student within their own classroom working on items that relate to therapy supported educational goals.By setting day and time since we all seem to cover many buildings,it provides an opportunity to be more consistent on a weekly basis in servicing all students within all buildings.
Be flexible! Write initial schedule in pencil and be prepared to change it…many times!
Flexibility! I try to schedule time in a school and then “catch” the students during their PE class, music class, recess, diaper changes, or when getting on/off the bus and use those opportunities to teach staff while I do therapy with the students. Lead and teach by example.  Gathering all the specials schedules(art, music, PE) and core subjects so we have those before putting students on a schedule. Also getting classroom schedules helps with knowing when to push-in for writing, etc. Meeting with special ed teachers to work on the schedule together greatly helps.
Start early! Before school starts. Most schools have master schedules completed before school starts. Set up a meeting with your school administrators.
I work in a rural district and travel to multiple schools in a day. My travel path is what dictates my therapy schedule which is probably not the best but when traveling to 4-5 schools in a day, it truly is my only option. Within the time I am within each school, I try to be the least disruptive to each child’s regular schedule whenever possible.
Depends on teachers and special class schedules in school. I usually work in between.
Patience! Start early with the most difficult students to schedule and be prepared to correct LOTS of drafts.
We try to work with the student where they are struggling the most.
I email each teacher or grade (some share students) for suggestions – not perfect but they know their schedule better than I can just by looking at a master schedule.
Email school principal / secretary the week before school starts to have them email you special / lunch / recess schedules/ class lists. Take an empy schedule with times and then write every student’s name for that building on the tiny sticky notes (1/4″ or so by 1 to 1 1/2″). After getting the special schedules etc. start placing stickies in the time slots of your empty schedule. I like to email the teachers with times then they can reference that time or let you know if it is not a good time, or write it on a card for them if you have several students in their class.
Other than being flexible and starting asap, provide the teacher with 2, or even 3, time slots. Some teachers are so flexible but for those who are not, giving them a choice seems to help our future relationship if you know what I mean! 😉
Ask at the office for the master specials, lunch and recess schedule before talking to any teacher about a specific student.
Prioritize scheduling students who mainstream from self-contained homerooms to general education settings first. Then schedule resource room students next. Then schedule general education students and last schedule full day self-contained. Be sure to schedule in travel time between schools and for students who may need to be picked up to/from their class. Share your schedule with the teachers as you complete it to receive quick feedback about scheduling conflicts or circumstances and ultimately share it with the pertinent case managers, principals, CST secretary, school secretary, counselors and special area teachers for each student.
pray. LOL. First find out about ‘special’ schedules, then talk to ST to coordinate with them, and then the teachers.
Build in room to be flexible if at all possible
Create a survey asking teachers the 3 best times to work with students and then attempt to create a schedule from this.
Start with the students with the highest minutes. Group by location. Keep calm and schedule on!
Plan early and be flexible
Class time
Collaborate with special education teachers for push-in times; set up a meeting time with speech/PT/etc to set schedules with teachers.
Schedule your kids with the most restrictive availability first.
Tell them your schedule is very tight, every change has a domino effect and you wish you could be more flexible. Say it very nicely, with a smile.
Scheduling has to be a balance of the client’s needs and yours as a therapist.
Make schedule then present to teachers. Make as early as possible.
Create an excel spreadsheet and paste names into time blocks and shuffle as needed.
Good luck everyone!  Scheduling is a super stressful time.  But, once done it is such a relief to get started working with the students!  Please take a moment to participate in the current survey here.
Once all your students are scheduled, stay organized with the Therapy Planner.  The new, updated planners are ready for you to get started on organizing your work life.

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