If you’re an occupational therapist—or you’re aspiring to become one—you know the rewards of the career are extensive. OTs help people across a spectrum of abilities function in their daily lives. Occupational therapists help students, patients, and clients recover, grow, and strengthen the skills needed for everyday living.
If you decide to take your occupational therapy skillset into schools to help kids who need your specialized services, you’ll find the joy of bringing OT to students. Your occupational therapy services will not only help them function at school but also in their everyday lives beyond the educational environment.
Whether you work with infants, children, younger adults, or seniors, you’ll want to cultivate specific skills to become an effective OT. Here are the top 8 traits we see in successful occupational therapists.
- Imaginative – If you provide OT services for children, it is essential to remember that kids may become discouraged or may not be able to comprehend why they need OT services. After all, some of the activities you will be practicing with them will just seem like basic life functions (such as handwriting). Therefore, it’s vital to tap into your creative side and to develop activities which may seem like fun things to do but are also essential for the occupational therapy assessment, evaluation, and treatment plan for the child.
- Genuine – Children are especially attuned to sincerity in adults. When you convey kindness and compassion, it will go a long way and will not go unnoticed. This is especially true for children who have limited speech or who are non-verbal. Kids pick up on body language and visual cues. Stay positive during each session, and their therapy will reflect accordingly.
- Collaborative – Remember it takes a village! If you’re a school OT, you will need to effectively communicate with a team to discuss the overall progress of each child. It’s not uncommon for children to receive services from a physical therapist or speech-language pathologist in addition to an occupational therapist. You’ll also need to work collaboratively with parents, teachers, administrators, and more.
- Versatile – Occupational therapists provide services in multiple environments, including early intervention, home health, private practice, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals and of course, educational systems. This array of options allows your versatility to shine. As an OT, you can serve patients across the lifespan – from infancy through old age.
- Principled – As a licensed professional occupational therapist, you must always hold yourself to the highest moral and ethical standards. It’s not always easy to do the right thing, but it’s imperative. Children and their families are counting on you to be truthful about what treatments are necessary, what their progress has been, and when services are no longer required. When faced with difficult situations such as parents pushing for more services for their child that aren’t necessary or a school pushing you to end services for children based on funding, its crucial you always do the right thing.
- Energetic – Bring your energy with you! Remember, you set the tone with your voice, demeanor, and expressions. Aim to carry productive and positive energy into your workspace. This is not always easy, as you may be on your feet for hours at a time. But energy is contagious, and wearing a smile on your face can put a smile on your patients’ faces as well.
- Perceptive – Children communicate in a variety of ways, sometimes with something as simple as a frown or a dip in their eyebrows. Attempt to be perceptive, as it’s not always clear why children refrain from participating or completing some of the exercises. Sometimes, it’s as simple as being bored with the activity or having a bad day at school. Picking up on little things also helps you when evaluating the child overall. Your colleagues may be able to give you insight into specific behaviors and their potential causes, which in turn could be your duty to advocate for additional or a different service.
- Tenacious – Some days will be exhausting. Some sessions will feel as if the perceived progress has disappeared. It’s pertinent to remember your goal of improving a child’s life. Keep growing, improving, and developing professionally as an occupational therapist. This will give you the motivation to stay consistent, persevere, and start fresh each day!
Do you have what it takes to be a successful occupational therapist? Then bring your skills to help kids who need you most in a school OT job with Cross Country Education!