Tag: special needs

Creative Ways for Occupational Therapists to Collaborate with Other OTs

I can’t wait to share this new, awesome resource for occupational therapists that Colleen Beck, from The OT Toolbox has put together! Colleen has generously offered to be my guest blogger and write about this new OT resource below:

As clinicians, occupational therapists strive to ensure best practice strategies while using the most recent evidence-backed information in clinical practice. It can be a challenge however, to enhance professional development. There are many reasons for this difficulty, including time, effort, energy, accessibility, and cost. When OTs struggle to advance as clinicians through traditional means, collaborating with other OT professionals can be a tool for advancing as a clinician.

Below you will find creative ways for occupational therapist practitioners to enhance professional development through collaboration with other Occupational Therapist professionals.


  • Facebook Groups- Connecting with other therapists can be as easy as logging on to your favorite social media platform. Social media communities like Facebook groups are a popular type of networking area. While online groups are an easy way to network with OTs from all over the world, there are challenges to this type of collaboration strategy. Questions that are asked of one another, may not be answered in a timely manner. Additionally, it can be a challenge to weed through all of the groups and social interactions happening on a platform whose entire intent is to promote “social interaction”. For many therapists, interacting on a social network may not be acceptable on-the-job activity.
  • Building groups on the job- Occasionally therapists are able to building and participate in groups on the job. A small group of therapists who meet for a weekly coffee meeting or lunch-time roundtable session can be a useful tool in enhancing professional development. When a group of coworkers meet for personal goal discussion, collaboration works as a team building strategy, too. There are downsides to this strategy, however: Many times, a therapist is the only clinician working in a setting. It can be struggle to find access to on-the-job mentor opportunities in some situations.
  • Twitter Parties- There are several occupational therapy Twitter parties that occur on a regular basis using hashtags. The scheduled meet-ups occur based on a hashtag that is used each week. Many times, therapy twitter parties have a set topic and invite therapists to interact with set questions. Collaborating and interacting with OTs from all over the world is possible in these parties. There are downsides to using Twitter parties as a means for collaboration and networking. Comments can move very quickly on Twitter. Questions can be left unanswered and potential connections get lost in the thread. Additionally, the limited number of characters that can be used in a response can interfere with communication in some cases.
  • Local OT Associations- Therapists may have access to local occupational therapy associations as a source for professional development through continuing education. When participating in local conferences, therapists have the potential to meet and network with other local OTs. However many therapists are limited geographically or are unable to access resources offered by local occupational therapy associations. Additionally, conferences and memberships have a cost associated with participation that can limit some professionals.
  • AOTA Website- Clinical resources and online forums can be found on membership sites like AOTA. Participation in a membership site such as a AOTA’s allows for therapists to receive and be a part of small group forums dedicated to specific areas. However the cost could be an issue for many therapists. There are other challenges that interfere with membership sites as a source for connection and collaboration. It takes time to find and connect with other therapists who are interested in a collaboration connection. A one-stop-shop for locating information would be a valuable resource for clinicians interested in collaboration with others in the profession.

The challenges related to the collaboration of occupational therapy professionals is why The OT Toolbox Community was developed as a professional development resource for OTs and OTAs.

The OT Toolbox Community is a free resource for occupational therapy practitioners who struggle to find valuable resources in a timely and efficient manner. Based from The OT Toolbox website, The OT Toolbox Community promotes clinicians as a valuable “tool” for clients. By connecting and collaborating with other therapists, it is possible to exponentially enhance and promote the profession.

Seeking out and have answers to clinical questions can be a huge limit when it comes to time, energy, cost, and other issues.

The OT Toolbox Community provides a resource for therapist to connect with one another and collaborate on clinical questions. OTs and OTAs have the opportunity to ask questions related to specific their needs. Therapist can draw on clinical expertise to respond and answer other clinician’s questions. Imagine if many therapists joined together in sharing years of clinical expertise and resources and put them into one tool kit. The OT Toolbox Community provides a one-stop location for navigating all of the information out there. It’s a place to access research. It’s a place to find best practice sources. It’s a place to promote collaborate, network, and mentor with one another as therapists.

The OT Toolbox Community is looking for you. Join hundreds of other occupational therapy professionals who have joined the community and are sharing questions, answers, resources, and valuable sources of clinical information.

A few facts about The OT Toolbox Community:

  • Members are able to upload links to valuable resources that they have located online. These can be shared with other members and searched for by category. Check out the Resource Center and add one of your own.
  • Members are able to ask questions and answer questions. These are sorted by category to enable search queries in order to locate best practice answers in a timely manner. Stop over to the Question Forum and see if there is one that you can answer given your clinical expertise.
  • Members can upload their own documents and files to share with other therapists. This is a huge asset for data collection screenings and other sources of information for therapists.
  • Members can list job opportunities in the Job Area. Have a position open in your facility? Reach out to our large community of occupational therapy professionals and fill your positions fast!
  • Have an activity that you love using in treatment sessions? Snap a picture with your phone and share it as a Blog Post. It doesn’t have to be a fancy blog post…just share your idea with the community members. Members can enhance the profession by sharing practice strategies that work!
  • In The OT Toolbox Community, all links, resources, questions, comments, and blog posts can be shared anonymously if you like!

Stop by and join The OT Toolbox Community! It’s a thriving source of information for occupational therapist practitioners.


Colleen Beck has been an Occupational Therapist since 2000, but is currently a stay-at-home mom to four sweet kids. She blogs about ideas and tools for therapists, parents and teachers at The OT Toolbox.

Teach The Alphabet Through Movement: ABC’s of Active Learning Book

I’m loving this new book written by pediatric physical therapist, Laurie Gombash, and want to share! You all know I love to encourage movement for all children. Teaching the alphabet and reading does not have to be a sedentary activity. This book has so many ideas for little learners to move and learn at the same time! I’m excited to have Laurie write about her new book below:


Thanks for this opportunity to guest blog and tell everyone about my new book, ABC’s of Active Learning©. Most people are attracted to a story. Skilled speakers know that a story can grab the audience’s attention and help them remember the lesson being taught. Children especially learn best when they are engaged in a literacy-based curriculum that is enriched with the arts and movement.

The ABC’s of Active Learning© offers a multisensory approach to recognizing the alphabet and learning letter sounds. Each of the twenty-six ABC’s of Movement alphabet letters is accompanied by:

  • suggestions for pre-literacy activities
  • a story
  • a fine motor craft
  • multisensory pre-writing activities that can be used and graded for learners of all abilities
  • skywriting instructions
  • sensory activities for taste and smell
  • a gross motor game

This book is fun, engaging, and filled with fresh ideas for multi-step crafts and movement activities that are fun for both children and adults. School support staff will especially appreciate activities that can be adapted to meld academic and therapeutic goals. Teachers and parents will have a book that makes academics fun. Grandparents and childcare providers will find the stories, crafts and movement activities great entertainment. The ABC’s of Active Learning© can stand alone or be a supplement to The ABC’s of Movement® activity cards.

The book and activity card downloads are available at ABCs of Movement. Amazon also sells the paperback bookactivity cards, and an option to buy the activity cards with music CD (Amazon affiliate links for Yums Theraplay).


Laurie Gombash is an experienced physical therapist who has a knack for turning ordinary items into fun therapeutic tools. She is also the brains behind The ABC’s of Movement®, and the webinars, “Pushing into the Classroom: Practical Strategies for Pediatric Therapists” and “Creative Pediatric Treatment Strategies Based on the Evidence” available through The Inspired Treehouse.

Fidgets in the Classroom: Why? What? How?

By Courtney Bills and Tera Robinson

We are right in the middle of the fidget spinner craze! The debates and rants have died down a bit because school is out for summer and no one has a problem if children are paying more attention to their fidget spinner than they are to their screens. Or the fidget spinners are inside while the kids are swimming, riding bikes and playing at the park. But… School starts soon and the discussion will surely fire back up! Hopefully, this post will help give some thought and good ideas to implement and help calm the craze, especially in our classrooms.

This time, I’ve teamed up with an amazing elementary teacher with 15 years of experience in classrooms, Courtney Bills. She has used fidgets in her classroom and gets everyday practice to implement sensory strategies into her teaching as she works with students, teachers and her own children who have sensory processing difficulties. We’ve collaborated together to help students and teachers for several years and she has some great ideas to successfully implement fidgets in classrooms. Courtney is going to share HOW she implements fidgets into her classroom at the end of this article.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links as a convenient way to find products and tools recommended.

VIDEO: See Tera talk about fidgets in the classroom on FOX 13 The Place here.



A fidget is one of many tools that helps students self-regulate their attention, behavior and learning. Fidget spinner marketers have done a fabulous job in gaining the attention of the general public about something people have been doing for ages and that occupational therapists have been recommending for decades! You’ve already seen fidgets in many forms, even before the invention of the fidget spinner! Twirling hair, tapping fingers, bouncing knees, clicking pens, doodling…

Fidgets can help a person who is having difficulty paying attention, holding still, or behaving appropriately to seek out movement (vestibular), muscle (proprioceptive) and touch (tactile) sensory input that will keep them alert, attentive and maintain appropriate interactions during important daily activities. For students in a classroom, appropriate daily activities would include sitting still, paying attention, listening to the teacher, following directions, staying on task, completing work assignments and participating appropriately in classroom activities with others nearby.

Maybe you know a student or two or three… who may struggle with some of these appropriate classroom behaviors. Students with the following behaviors would benefit from using a fidget:

  • difficulty paying attention, listening and following directions
  • difficulty maintaining alertness (may exhibit “dazed” looks)
  • difficulty holding still or staying in his/her seat
  • difficulty keeping hands to her/himself and staying in his/her own space


The key to a successful classroom fidget is that it that works as a tool, not a toy. Each student will respond differently to different fidgets. I’ve seen a variety of fidgets work very successfully in classrooms, including simple fidget spinners for a student or two and fidget cubes for a few more, but the key is still that it is used as a tool, NOT a toy. Students have many other classroom tools such as pencils, crayons, scissors, paper, desks, chairs, books, computers, iPads…  Teachers teach and maintain guidelines about appropriately using these classroom tools and not allowing them to become toys. (A few examples: A pencil is for writing, not sword fighting. Scissors are for cutting paper, not hair.) Teachers should also teach and maintain guidelines for classroom fidget tools. A successful fidget tool will not be the focus of a student’s attention, but will be used in the background with the focus of attention being given to the instruction, activities and learning in the classroom. Students should be able to answer questions, participate appropriately and not disturb others in the learning taking place while using the fidget. One reminder is that novelty will always create excitement, but once it is consistently used in the classroom, the excitement wears off. So if fidgets are used consistently in the classroom, they will become old news to many students and the ones who need them will keep coming back for them.

I really love this video that explains and gives guidelines on how to use fidgets in the classroom as a tool and not a toy: Long Story Shorts – Fidgets. Teachers and parents, show this to your students so they can learn how to use a fidget effectively to help them learn!

There are a few practical considerations to take into account when choosing fidgets for the classroom:

  • Price is important in a full classroom of young students. Expect that fidgets will be lost and need to be replaced, so I try to only buy fidgets that are about $3 or less.
  • The ability to use hands for learning activities is another important factor. Fidgets requiring two hands are fine for listening and discussion, but if a student is writing, at least one hand should be free to use a pencil. You can add a clip to tie to belt loops or a pencil topper fidget to avoid dropping or losing the fidget.
  • Simple and plain is best for classroom fidgets. Remember that fidgets should NOT be the focus of a student’s attention, so entertaining factors, such as stress balls with eyes that pop out when squeezing or bright, flashing lights or any noisy fidget, should be avoided in the classroom.

Several of my awesome teacher friends have helped me create a list of their most successful fidgets of the many that I’ve recommended in their classrooms over the past few years.

Boinks Marble Fidget

Tangle Jr.

Tangle Jr. Classics - Set of 3 Classic Tangle Jr. Fidget Toys

Stress Balls

Silicone Bracelets

Nut & Bolt Pencil Toppers

Fidget Pencil Toppers on Pencil, Set of 6 (3 Wing Nuts and 3 Nuts'n Bolts), Colors Vary

Coil Bracelets

Scrubber Sponges


Lion Brand Yarn 545-201 Landscapes Yarn, Boardwalk

Sticky Back Velcro Tape

Model Magic Clay

Kneadable Erasers

Kneadable Eraser, 36 count tub


Paper Clips

Binder Clips


Although many children can be taught in a traditional classroom without modifications, many children will find greater success with simple classroom adjustments. I have found that providing opportunities for children to discover their personal sensory needs enhances their learning, their motivation to learn, and their engagement in instruction.

I have learned a few things over the years in using fidgets and other sensory strategies in my classroom: (Although this article is specific for fidgets, all points in this section can be applied to any sensory strategy, such as seating options and brain breaks, used in the classroom.)

  • All fidgets should be taught with procedures and purpose just like turning in an assignment, sharpening pencils or lining up. You can eliminate almost all misuse of fidgets with proper training and procedures.
  • Provide more fidgets than children. Only a handful of children will “need” a fidget during carpet time, but if all children have the option, no one feels different or singled out.
  • Don’t use fidgets as a punishment for not being able to sit still or poor behavior.
  • Don’t take away fidgets for not following directions, using fidgets incorrectly, or not sitting still. Don’t misinterpret the fidget to be the cause of poor behavior, but lack of training and understanding the proper use of fidgets.
  • Most importantly, help children self-regulate and recognize when and if a particular fidget is helping him/her engage in the learning.

To help students learn how to self-regulate by using fidgets, ask questions such as:

  • How did having this fidget help you participate during carpet time?
  • Why did you choose to use this fidget to do your assignment today? Did it help you or distract you?
  • What fidget could you try next time that may help you stay focused?
  • I noticed that this fidget seemed to help you get your work done. How did it make you feel inside? Why do you think it helped you?

Fidgets are one of many sensory strategies that we use to support student success at school. Ask your occupational therapist for recommendations to meet the specific needs of your individual child or student. You may also be interested in learning about the importance of full recesses and seating options for sensory strategies to be used in combination with fidgets at school.

Every Minute of Every Recess for Every Student!

Classroom Seating Options for Students Who Struggle Sitting Still


Courtney Bills is a wife and mom of three awesome kids with their own individual sensory needs. She has taught in elementary classrooms for many years and is now a National Educational Consultant, with a focus on literacy instruction through C & B Reading, LLC. She works locally in Utah to help integrate an inclusion model for all students by providing necessary accommodations in the classroom for engagement and success of all learners.


*I am part of the Amazon Associates Program. If you choose to buy any of these products from Amazon, I’d love for you to purchase them through the links on my website to help support the work I do with Yums Theraplay! Thank you!