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    April is Occupational Therapy Month
    Posted on 04/23/2021
    A woman stands in front of a sign that says I love OTs

    April is Occupational Therapy Month

    Occupational therapists provide specialized services to support students with disabilities in participating in their learning environment and in social situations.

    One of the wonderful occupational therapists in Seattle Public Schools is Harriet Hsieh. Harriet has been an occupational therapists practitioner for over 24 years, working at SPS for seven years. Harriet works with a wide range of students – she serves students in developmental preschool, high school, and BRIDGES programs with all different skill levels. Her work has been to support students to engage in their learning and prepare them for participation in meaningful life pursuits after completing their education in SPS.

    "As an occupational therapist, I have a lot of opportunities to be creative and imaginative in catering therapeutic interventions to specific clients and scenarios. We support clients to participate in their day-to-day activities in a meaningful and independent way regardless of their state of physical, psychological, emotional, and environmental challenges. It is also very rewarding that you get to be a part of increasing independence and happiness in their lives," Harriet said.

    During her work as an occupational therapist in schools, Harriet has seen that students of color and students receiving English language learner services face many barriers in education and medical systems, especially as we have seen a recent increase in incidences of anti-Asian racism and hate.

    "It is imperative that we as educators and occupational therapists continue to work to create an equitable and inclusive learning environment to demonstrate to our learners that our differences are valued and respected. Occupational therapists are skilled at thinking about how different environments can either set people up for success or actively work against them,"  Harriet said.

    Whether in-person or remotely, Harriet works closely with teachers and instructional assistants to plan lessons and design activities to create opportunities for practicing skills. She works with students on areas of motor, sensory processing, emotional regulation, and social behaviors that contribute to their success in self-care, emotional well-being, play, and learning.

    Lately, her focus has shifted to coaching students and teachers on how to use various accessibility features in their learning devices in order to participate in remote school efficiently. Since school closures, occupational therapists have developed close partnerships and trusting relationships with parents and have seen many students make progress on their goals.

    Despite the changes in learning caused by COVID-19, one core value has not changed: the goal of occupational therapy is to support our students to participate in school occupations in their least restrictive environment whether it is in-person or remote.

    "In the past year since building closures, my talented fellow occupational therapists have come forward to support students, families, and colleagues in many different creative ways. Our group stayed in solidarity and supported each other. I am proud to be part of the OT group at Seattle Public Schools!"

    Thank you to Harriet and her colleagues for all their great work!