South Orangetown Central School District

It may be summer, but Beth Kaplan, COTA, and 25 William O. Schaefer Elementary School and Cottage Lane Elementary School students have been working hard together! “The role of occupational therapy in school has always been to help students access the curriculum. Since the ways in which the students are learning has changed, occupational therapy support has shifted to adapt to those changes,” says Kaplan, who has been serving students through tele-therapy since late March. “Rather than pencil and paper, students are now learning how to use the mouse to practice handwriting by writing and forming letters.”

Experience with distance learning in the spring has shaped Kaplan’s professional practice. “Students learn in a state-of-the-art therapy room at school. Distance learning shifted that learning to students’ kitchens and playrooms. As I worked with students virtually, I realized that there was an increased need for constant feedback. When we’re together in the therapy room, we have a number of tools available and I can quickly transition to a new strategy to maintain students’ focus. But there are distractions at home and with devices, so coming up with new strategies for the virtual environment has helped keep their attention.”

The summer program is helping students who receive occupational therapy to continue working toward goals and has generated family support. Sessions include fun, game-like activities to build skills, while also helping students become more savvy technology users. “My students have been active participants and tele-therapy has engaged parents in their children’s services. They’ve been able to observe first-hand how occupational therapy supports learning and how the skills their children are developing carry over at home.”

Zoom OT session with therapist and student onscreen