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Classroom for Success If your child is receiving private occupational therapy (OT), the primary focus of the sessions is typically what occurs in the clinic. Of equal importance, however is collaboration between your child’s occupational therapist and your child’s teacher. We have found that a direct classroom observation, followed by a joint meeting with teachers, parents and OT is invaluable for everyone’s understanding and facilitating classroom success.

Case Study: Five-Year-Old Sam
Five-year-old Sam was struggling in his new classroom. He was full of energy, tending to exuberantly bounce around the classroom, often invading the play space of other children. Sam had a hard time sitting still for circle time and group instruction. At the same time, he was hypersensitive to noise and unexpected touch. This resulted in him scolding other children to stop making noises or touching him and then Sam would get in trouble for not listening.

Sam was receiving clinic based occupational therapy, however, change in Sam would not occur fast enough to impact the current school situation. It was essential that his classroom teacher understand his sensory processing and that his teacher, occupational therapist, and parents all work together to develop a plan that would relieve stress on everyone and help the transition to the new classroom be smoother.

Sam’s occupational therapist spent two hours observing him at school, to understand the strengths and limitations of the classroom environment and the impact on Sam.

Classroom Strengths

  • teachers open to working together
  • large classroom with multiple centers
  • good natural lighting
  • diverse outdoor play space
  • specialty staff members available to provide some relief


    • frequent limited access to outdoor play areas during the summer due to code orange and red days
    • limited gross motor or heavy work play opportunities indoors
    • large number of children in class (22)
    • generally high noise level in classroom
    • other children in the classroom who tended to target Sam
    • some play materials that tended to invite aggressive play (e.g. long wooden sticks)

The Meeting
Evaluation and observation findings with recommendations were presented and then the team brainstormed other ideas. The focus was on setting the environment for success using strategies that would not only help Sam, but also benefit other children in the class and would not require a lot of individual attention from his teachers.

The Plan

– Provide opportunities for physical activity both morning and afternoon; inside options included: [easyazon-link asin=”B001GS032K” locale=”us”]scooter board[/easyazon-link] or [easyazon-link asin=”B000BPN3JO” locale=”us”]hoppitty balls[/easyazon-link] in the hall way; a center with [easyazon-link asin=”B001E6IQP0″ locale=”us”]Monster Clompers[/easyazon-link] and [easyazon-link asin=”B0016UMK9M” locale=”us”]jumping tasks[/easyazon-link]; Dance party; assisting with delivering jugs of milk to classrooms; helping with [easyazon-link asin=”B0009I7GUA” locale=”us”]gardening[/easyazon-link].

When coming in from outdoor time, have each child have their own water bottle, instead of having to sit in the hall waiting their turn at the single water fountain.

Provide centers with heavy work with hands, such as [easyazon-link asin=”B001763OS6″ locale=”us”]play dough[/easyazon-link], [easyazon-link asin=”B0009F4YR6″ locale=”us”]sand[/easyazon-link], water, etc.

Provide periods of quiet or lower noise level during the day. Try silent clean-up at the end of the morning, possibly with classical music such as [easyazon-link asin=”B0000058HV” locale=”us”] Mozart[/easyazon-link] or drum music ([easyazon-link asin=”B000008QVX” locale=”us”]Sacred Spirit Drums[/easyazon-link] or [easyazon-link asin=”B000008QVH” locale=”us”]Sacred Earth Drums[/easyazon-link] by David and Steve Gordon). This would also be useful during lunch time.

Have [easyazon-link asin=”B000KQQUQW” locale=”us”]sound occluding headphones[/easyazon-link] available.

– Have a center with headphones and recorded stories available.

– During circle time, provide [easyazon-link asin=”B002ZKV7NM” locale=”us”]fidgets[/easyazon-link].  See 7 Strategies for a Successful Circle Time

By afternoon group time, Sam often needed a break from the children, so he could be given the option of independent work sitting at a small table on the other side of the room.

The Result
Sam participated in the majority of activities successfully and when needed, he used opportunities to ‘chill out’ and have a little breathing space. He looked forward to going to school and transitioned in easily each day.