I am a passionate advocate for school Occupational and Physical Therapists.

I like to keep my blog light and fun, but sometimes you’ve got to get serious.

I’m serious about OT.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always been a role model and an inspiration for me. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an advocate who fought for women’s rights. She experienced blatant gender discrimination during the 1960s, making it nearly impossible to find a job. Even though she exceled as a professor, discrimination against women was rampant. She fought against discrimination for both genders. 

Her advocacy journey was slow but progressive. She started addressing prejudices one at a time to reach her goals. Like a giant snowball, her efforts began small, and they became bigger and bigger as time passed.

She is proof that advocating for yourself and other people might be challenging, but it can pave the way for the success of future generations. She inspires me to continue fighting for my OT and PT colleagues so that we may have access to all the opportunites that are curently offered to the rest of the SISPs.  

 We must advocate for EQUITY!

Here’s the deal. In most states in the U.S. (except 4) school-based O.T. and P.T. staff aren’t included in the category of pupil personnel with the other Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISPs). 

Although the federal mandate Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) DOES include us as SISPs and values our contributions to the school setting, the states have not updated their laws and procedures to catch up. 

We have similar job roles to teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, and speech therapists, providing educationally relevant services to children in school.

However, in every state throughout the US (except 4), OTps & PTs are the only ones not included under the umbrella of “teachers” by their state education departments.

This creates many barriers for school-based OTps and PTs. We can’t take coursework to pursue administrative degrees. We are often limited from joining the teachers union, which impacts our retirement, benefits, and salary for the rest of our careers.

One of Ruth’s famous quotes is “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”

And this inspired me to apply it to our situation. School OTs & PTs belong in all places where educational decisions are being made.”

This quote is in direct alignment with the Every Student Succeeds Act, which includes school OTs and PTs as vital team members who should be included in educational decisions, curriculum committees, and so much more.

Occupational Therapy practitioners and Physical Therapists are considered Specialized Instructional Support Personnel under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Act).

In New York, the Board of Regents calls on all schools to develop policies that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion as a priority in their schools.

For example, in New York State’s ESSA Plan and Career Ladder Framework aspire to offer school leadership opportunities, provide career advancement opportunities, and raise the diversity of the workforce to support student learning (NYSED, 2020b; Rafal-Baer, n.d..).

To become an administrator in the NY State public school system, a person must be educationally credentialed. This means they have a “teaching certificate” under the Office of Teaching Initiatives. The other SISPs (social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists, and speech and language pathologists) have a pathway to leadership positions because they are categorized as pupil personnel or classroom teachers within the NYSED.

School-based occupational and physical therapy providers in most states are not included in the pupil personnel category with the other Specialized Instructional Support personnel (SISP), which obstructs the pathway to leadership positions.

This leads to pervasive inequity for OTs and PTs, including but not limited to how we are hired, our pay scales, retirement, and pension availability. This impacts the recruitment and retention of highly qualified, experienced, and effective OT and PT professionals.

OTs and PTs have No Advancement Ladder

New York State is facing a teacher shortage, which impacts the pool of candidates for school administration (DeWitt, 2018).

NYSED has proposed to change some of the requirements to obtain a teaching certificate (AKA educational credential) to lessen the burden of the teacher shortage (NYSED, 2022a).

Adjusting the standard requirements for teachers is possible. Including Occupational and Physical Therapists in the category is possible, too.

Times are changing out of necessity – if we keep everything the same simply because it’s historically been that way, our schools would still be segregating children with disabilities from their peers. 

As NYSED updates the credentialing requirements, they should consider reversing the categorical exclusion of OT and PT from the Pupil Personnel category. Include Occupational and Physical Therapy professionals in the category of pupil personnel under the Office of Teaching Initiatives.

Ruth said “My hope for our society that  we’re gonna use the talent of all  of the people and not just half of them.”

What can Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists Bring to School Leadership Positions?

✔️Master’s and Doctoral degrees

✔️New York state-licensed professionals

✔️Nationally certified

✔️Qualified and trained to identify barriers and supports to learning in the school environment.

✔️Knowledgeable in skills that would benefit the school community on a system, group, and individual student levels.

✔️Trained to follow a strength-based, functional perspective, focused on student participation, performance, and success.

✔️Educationally relevant experience

✔️Specific and advanced training:

        • childhood development from birth through 21
        • competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns
        • concepts, strategies, and principles related to movement and performance
        • achieving and maintaining a health-enhancing level of physical activity
        • physical activity for overall wellness, enjoyment and/or self-expression
        • social-emotional learning
        • executive functioning skills
        • self-regulation
        • life skills, community integration, and vocational training
        • mental health
        • trauma-informed care
        • public health
        • transition planning
        • assistive technology
        • physical disabilities
        • accommodations
        • universal design for learning
        • ergonomics/adaptive seating


Ginsburg, R. B. (2016). My own words. Simon and Schuster.

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