This week, in honor of Occupational Therapy Month, I’m sharing my journey as an OT advocate. When I decided to be a school OT, I didn’t realize that I literally had NO chance of advancing past being a school OT. After the shock of the realization wore off, I tried to do something about it. I failed. Years later, I’ve picked back up where I left off, and NOW, I’m making sure that everyone knows about this inequity.
In most states in the US, School OTps and PTs aren’t permitted to be leaders in the school setting.
Think about what your school would be like if they were allowed to take the coursework and advance to leadership positions.
Would the OTps and PTs be working in the hall or would they have a designated work space with a budget for supplies?
Would the therapists still be contracted, or would they be fully included in staff meetings, interdisciplinary collaboration, and multi-tier system supports?
Maybe your schedule would be based on your workload, with actual time slots for paperwork, teacher consultations, and team meetings.
Things would look really different for OTps and PTs, but more importantly, it would be so much better for the children.
My Journey As an Accidental Advocate
Occupational and physical therapy practitioners have equal qualifications and similar roles to school social workers, psychologists, counselors, and speech-language pathologists.
But we don’t have equal opportunities in the school setting. The other professions are included in the category of “teachers” under the state education department. This means they can pursue the coursework to become an educational administrator if they wish.
But occupational and physical therapists aren’t allowed to advance to leadership positions. This is professional inequity. To grant certain professions opportunities, while denying others with equal qualifications the same opportunities creates a stigma of inferiority. It’s downright wrong. It needs to change.
I would love to take on a more administrative role, but as an OTA I “only” have my associate’s degree. Which means that I would have to further my education (i.e. accumulate debt) in order to take on bigger role within the school setting. I have had numerous teachers, co-workers and even administration tell me how good I would be in those positions, but when it comes down to credentials, I can’t seem to rise above being considered underqualified. It is beyond frustrating. I have so much more to offer.
This is so true. Being in the school system for over 17 yrs we can not even retire for they do not offer us retirement benefits as they do teachers and speech therapists. All because we do NOT hold a teachers certificate. Here I am watching teachers left and right retire and we just do not have that benefit. So unfair!!
I am in the same boat! Sick of seeing people that I have worked with and been in the same district with who are retiring and younger than I am! I am really quite depressed about it, and would never encourage anyone I know to go into OT!
I work in a school district in Az as an OTA/L. My entire OT team are all employees of the district and are entitled to state retirement benefits. We are able to move up if we pursue all the classes required for school admin degree.
My understanding is that SLP-CCC’s actually carry a form of educational certification, but I may be wrong.
As a therapist with all these benefits, I’m sad to hear others are not having the same experience. I appreciate your advocacy, so everyone is treated the same.