The PE/OT Connection

When I was an undergrad, we were instructed to make friends with the school custodians and secretaries, because they are the ones who really make a school tick. I would like to add one more person to the list – the Occupational Therapist.

I am blessed that my best friend, Deb, is a pediatric Occupational Therapist. Before I became an elementary PE teacher, Deb and I worked together at a program for autistic children. We would stay up late at night discussing ways to help the children we were working with, and that set the stage for me as a PE teacher. Over the years I have called Deb with questions about some of my students, and together we have figured out strategies that could help them.

OT’s see children through a different lens. Where I might see a behavior problem, the OT sees sensory processing disorder. Because of my experience with Deb, I have always made it a point to consult with our school OT’s.  Here are a couple of examples of how these relationships have directly helped some of my students:

  1. Sitting “criss-cross applesauce” is not for everyone. Some students need to stand, lay down, spin, etc., in order to regulate their bodies. My OT friends explained this to me, and I was able to let go of my own need for control, and allow the students to attend to instructions in ways that worked for them (as long as they were not disruptive to the others).
  2. Some of my students would freeze when we introduced a new skill for them. For example, one boy would stand stock still holding a jump rope, and not attempt to jump. I initially thought he was being defiant, but the OT explained that with dyspraxia, sometimes initiating a movement could be extremely difficult. Together we figured out how to break down the task so the boy could get started, and with time he was able to jump rope.
  3. Does this sound familiar to you? Your class comes into the gym, and one student runs in, slides across the floor, crashes into the walls, and bumps into everyone in their path. Another student creeps in with big, wide eyes, stands against the wall, and covers their ears. Both children have trouble with sensory processing – the first is a sensory seeker, the second a sensory avoider. My OT helped me with strategies for both types of students. For example, I had activities that involved jumping, pushing, and lifting ready for my sensory seekers. Turning down the music or having noise canceling headphones helped our sensory avoiders. If this wasn’t enough, I reached out for more help and advice.

What I appreciate most about my Occupational Therapist friends is that they helped me realize that what I thought were behavior problems were not always so. No child wants to misbehave. Once I understood this, I was better able to support and help my students so they could be the best version of themselves possible.

Thank you to all the Occupational Therapists out there – you are awesome!

Does this GIF resonate with you? 

Here is a link you might enjoy as well:

This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Megaera Regan, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of

Pair this blog post with the following:

Opening My Eyes by Megaera Regan

Meeting Them (Almost) Where They’re At by Michelle Ireland

Finding Their Swish by Judy LoBianco

Different Ways from a “Different” Teacher by Heather Burd

Have you read the latest Book of the Month recommendation?

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