The Art of Scheduling OT at School

It’s that time of year again. The first couple of weeks are for getting organized, setting up, finding kids, and scheduling. Scheduling can be annoying, inconsistent, time consuming, frustrating, and for most people it’s the worst part of starting a new year (maybe one step below summer ending and actually working). I am probably part of the small percentage of people who actually like scheduling. Those aspects of scheduling can be challenging, and regardless of the size of the caseload, I must find a way for it to work out. 

The most challenging schedule I have done in the past was working in 5 schools with a total of 42 kids (direct, consult and groups) from preschool to high school. At one point, I had to take a puddle jumper to Hana, HI to see one student. Scheduling is like a game of Tetris, always flipping and changing until something fits. Every year I challenge myself to see how fast I can schedule and with the fewest changes. Sometimes I can play an over under game with myself in regards to how many times I have to change the schedule once services start, but that’s for my own pleasure. 

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Here is how I approach scheduling and prioritizing which students to schedule first.

  1. High school students in general education – These students usually have changing schedules, alternating days, and limited pull out times. Hopefully these students are on consult, and that would depend on either the case manager, homeroom teacher, or the teacher who would be addressing his OT goals. Best times are study halls.
  2. Preschool students – Some of these students only come in the morning or afternoon.  They typically have a lot of services, snack and recess. I schedule the students in groups first. Then I work on students that have individual services more than once a week.
  3. Middle school students in general education – These are similar to high school students but a little more flexibility in schedules. There tends to be a mix of consult and direct services so address direct first, starting with groups and then working towards individual.
  4. Elementary school students in general education or inclusion – These are similar to high school and middle school students with flexibility in schedule.  
  5. Students in self contained classes – These students usually have the most flexibility.  Students that are in high school self contained classes may have community outings.
  6. Consults – This can be done during prep times, lunch, early morning, afternoon before school ends, during recess, etc.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Everyone else is scheduling so be flexible. I like to be very accommodating to the speech therapists because they usually have a lot more groups than occupational therapists. Physical therapists would be next on the list because they usually have more schools.
  2. Schedule with the teacher that is the most stressed first. They will appreciate the flexibility of a more open schedule. It will be easier if you need to change it later.
  3. Know your work habits. I am always late, so I know not to schedule a student first thing in the morning. I typically try to schedule from the middle of the day and work out from there. For example, schedule students starting around 11:00 and then 10:30 and 11:30.  Knowing which grades have lunch and recess is important. If I have time, I usually have my prep first thing in the morning (because I’m late) and complete paperwork at the end of the day or schedule consults for these times.
  4. Even though we should have prep and evaluation times, this isn’t always the case and there isn’t much that you can do about it. So work more efficiently and use Double Time Docs to save time when testing a student and writing the report.