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Recognizing Occupational Therapy Month

Recognizing Occupational Therapy Month

Osseo Area Schools currently employs 17 Occupational Therapists (OTs), who work with students from birth through transition-age, within Special Education programming. Every April, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) celebrates Occupational Therapy Month. The celebration honors the profession and the meaningful differences OTs make in the lives of others.

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is a science-driven, evidence-based profession that enables people of all ages to participate in daily living or live better with injury, illness or disability. This is accomplished through designing strategies for everyday living and customizing environments to develop and maximize potential.

By taking the full picture into account—a person's psychological, physical, emotional and social make-up—occupational therapy assists people in:

Achieving their goals.
Functioning at the highest possible level.
Concentrating on what matters most to them.
Maintaining or rebuilding their independence.
Participating in the everyday activities that they need to do or that simply make life worth living.
Performing the occupations they need and want to do every day.

Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson has worked as an OT in the district for 16 years, currently working at Edinbrook and Park Brook Elementary schools. She chose occupational therapy as a career because she knew she wanted to help children develop their skills and increase their independence.
School occupational therapists work directly with students individually, in small groups, or by pushing-into the classroom to address self-help skills, assistive technology, self-regulation and motor skills, with the goal of helping students access their education. They also collaborate with teachers, ESPs, other school staff and families to help students succeed and achieve their dreams.
One of Johnson’s favorite parts of the job includes using principles from the SMART program, which stands for Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training. The SMART program uses a multi-sensory approach to focus on developing the foundational skills that students need for academic success. Park Brook has adopted this program and has worked with Johnson to help develop a specific motor space for students to access. The space includes activities that develop balance, bilateral coordination, gross and fine motor skills and functional vision skills. It is an organized, structured program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, set up as an obstacle course. Johnson says it has been rewarding to watch the students improve their skills as they utilize the course, seeing how it carries over to improvement and academic success in the classroom.
In her free time, Johnson enjoys gardening, hiking, crafting and spending time with her family.  

Rebecca Jones

Rebecca Jones has been an OT in the district for six years. She currently works at Rush Creek Elementary, Osseo Senior High and the Osseo Education Center. Prior to working for the district, Jones worked as an outpatient occupational therapist. Her outpatient experience helped her prepare for one of her favorite and most fulfilling parts of her job in this district, working as a district Assistive Technology/Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AT/AAC) consultant one day a week.
Assistive Technology (AT) explores alternative ways of completing a task to meet a student’s specific needs. This may include use of higher-tech tools (such as specialized online reading tools or switch access) or may include low-tech tools (such as pencil grippers, a slant board or visuals). In the school setting, Jones is able to help match students with specialized tools and strategies to help increase student independence and achievement. Jones enjoys exploring new ideas and strategies so that she is able to bring back the latest and most current information to the district. She helps train staff and students on AT tools and strategies, sometimes traveling to sites to support staff and students in the areas of AT/AAC.
“I love working for this school district! When I worked at a clinic, we saw children once a week in a clinic room, in addition to coaching and training the family, which is so different from working in the natural environment,” Jones said.

“Working within the school environment is so powerful. Within the school setting, we are still coaching and training as OTs, however the students are completing tasks in natural environments. If we are able to incorporate tools and strategies into their everyday environment and classroom routines, students are more likely to be successful,” Jones added. “When we spend time training students, as well as the staff that support them, on how to use their AT tools, success is going to happen! These students are going to have more independence, learn more, and feel much more competent and positive about their educational experience through the ability to access their AT tools.”