100 years of OT and what OT means to me

2017 is an exciting year!! Occupational therapy turns 100 and I want to share what OT means to me, has meant to me, and what OT will hopefully become.

Occupational therapy means opportunity taken to me. As we go through life and schooling, there are many career choices. I am fortunate to have stumbled upon OT. I was in the USNAVY and my friend’s wife was an OT. Upon discharge from service, I looked into OT and thank god I did. The career fits my personality and intellect to a tee. 

That is why occupational therapy has meant so much to me…….because I am OT. I think about all components….physical, mental, social. I love to solve problems.  In OT school, they call it activity analysis, but it is essentially problem solving with creativity!! Since OT’s are trained in many frames of reference, we as OTs can be as creative as we want ro be to help others. In educational circles, it is called differentiated instruction. In coaching, it is called game planning to your players strengths. In parenting, it is called being an active listener and guide. 

OT is in so many things that , unfortunately, it is often overlooked. I hope that the future of OT can help people to be independent and utilize information properly. As a society, information is everywhere. It can be daunting, but I think OTs can be leaders in analyzing and applying this information. It is such an important skill that is taken for granted. For example, I used to love Jeopardy, but now with Google it seems kind of silly to know obscure facts. I would rather be good at using information well than just knowing tons of information.

Please share what OT means to you here or on my Facebook page. Looking firward to a great 2017!!

Goals: We do them for our students, but we need to do them for ourselves too

At the start of every school year, therapists and teachers review a child’s goals and determine a plan of care for the school year. As adults, why don’t we do this for ourselves? So today, I am going to share some goals for this upcoming school year and then I discuss some strategies to accomplish these goals.

Goal Number 1: Finish my handwriting program so that it can be sold for Christmas

Goal Number 2: Present at National Head Start Conference

Goal Number 3: Lose 20 pounds by January 1st

These are my 3 main areas to focus on for the next few months. I believe that it is more important to have 2 to 3 long term goals that can actually be accomplished. I have had colleagues, parents, and teachers all request 20 or more goals. How can that be accomplished in a 40 week school year? They can’t be accurately measured and the sheer number of them drives down their value. The three areas I mentioned are very important to me.

Handwriting Program

I am so excited to be finishing my Kickstarter proposal and completing my copyright and trademark work so that I can publish my handwriting program. It has been a 5 year ambition that will finally come to fruition.

Present at National Head Start Conference

I have presented at the NJCIE annual conference, a workshop for pre-K teachers, and have guest lectured. I love presenting and love my pre-K kids. They can grow so fast and benefit so much from skilled pediatric OT.

Weight Loss

I have tried to use social media for OT, friends, and family, but as I grow older I realize more and more how important health is for all of us. Especially after working in a nursing home where the scourge of obesity and diabetes is taking limbs and ruining lives.I need to be healthier and love playing sports with my children. I could lose that if I do not take better care of myself.


On January 1st, these goals will be accomplished and I look forward to reflecting on  these goals and the year 2016 as a whole.Thank you to anyone who reads my blog, has read my book, or reads my Twitter posts. I am trying more and more to embrace social media and be active member of the online OT community.

Inclusion and the Flipped Classroom. Can this be a model for easier related services inclusion?

I would like to thank the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education for allowing me to present at their annual conference at Montclair State University at the end of June 2016. I focused on using monthly themes to deliver school based occupational therapy in an inclusion model. The attendees included parent, teachers, and administrators, but no therapists. Are therapists afraid to utilize inclusion? Does the educational system know how to incorporate related services in an inclusion model? I think these are important questions to address and I will use examples from discussions from my workshop in June.

Are therapists afraid to use inclusion? Afraid may be a strong word, but it can be daunting as a related service provider to try and maneuver in a classroom because classroom environments and expectations change. Sometimes a therapist goes in for an integrated session that turns into a “push-in” session. I like integrated sessions where I feel that the teacher and I are a team and I have a chance to contribute to the lesson. I don’t like push in where I sit with one child as the teacher lectures and I have to wait to help the child as needed. I don’t think that my skills as an OT are effective in that scenario. So, I can understand why therapists can be hesitant, but I think as therapists in a school setting we are educators. I think we need to go to education conferences and learn educational techniques. We need to increase our knowledge so that we can advocate for ourselves.

Does the educational system know how to incorporate related services in an inclusion model? Not entirely and not as effectively as needed. There were two administrators who spoke a lot about the difficulty of incorporating OT in an inclusion model. The self contained classes are easy because most of the students in those rooms have related services, but how do you help the slightly behind student who is in an integrated classroom and might be the only student receiving services? There were discussions on lunch or recess inclusion but the poor student loses important social time. There were discussions of centers, but are centers done everyday as students increase grade level and if it is one student then  what about the other students at that center who do not receive OT?

So what do we do? I got an idea after I recently applied for a Dean position at a charter school and had to do a 10th/11th grade lesson plan for scholars. I spoke to a colleague, did some research, and decided to do a Physics lesson using a flipped classroom. A flipped classroom is where the teacher gives a video, audio, text, or combination of the information to be learned for homework. The next day, in class, the teacher and students work on the problems. This allows the teacher to help the students when they would have the most difficulty; applying what they have learned to solve problems and critically think.The teacher can walk around the room and help students as needed. Really cool concept.

Oh yeah, the idea. The idea came to me that if the teacher did a flipped classroom then the OT can walk around or plan something independently with the one or few students who have OT as a related service. The OT would be seen as a fellow educator and be assisting in the same way a classroom teacher would. I think it can be effective and address those students who need a little bit of help in those integrated classes. as the students work, the therapist can also discuss OT strategies with the teacher. It is very hard to coordinate extra time with teachers to discuss OT.  Can it work? If you do a flipped classroom, do you do that for every lesson? I do not know. I am excited to look further into this topic and hope some of my colleagues will research it as well.

Please give me your opinions on, Flipped Classroom for increased integration of related services delivered in an inclusion model.

Coleman Curriculum for School Based Occupational Theapy


Recently on Twitter, there was a post about the best 36 books for occupational therapy and I knew that my book would not be on it. I knew this not because of the quality of my book, but more because marketing and social media are areas in which I struggle. I published the book in December 2013 and have tried numerous marketing campaigns.

The best campaign has been selling the PDF on Your Therapy Source. The owner is a physical therapist and is very active in writing and discussions regarding the therapy and school based therapy profession. She is very knowledgeable and has helped me tremendously.

All of my other marketing has been riddled with ups and downs. I have built some very strong relationships while marketing my beliefs and have had tough times along the way. I want to take the rest of this post to go over the three reasons I wrote the book and am inviting anyone who has bought the book or who has received a free copy to comment about the book. I am working on new programs and will use more social media to get the word out.


  1. Educational Collaboration:  I take skilled school based OT and break it down into educational and layman’s terms because I want everyone to see what we do and how beneficial OT is. I have had educational stakeholders at every level ask me what an OT does and how an OT helps the students. This book helps to clarify and express the function of the OT.
  2. Discharge  Protocol: Schools utilize an Individual Education Plan or IEP, which runs for an entire year. So after a student has one, two, three, or more years of school based OT, how can discharge be achieved? How can OT be taken out of the IEP once it is established? It is very difficult because parents, and sometimes teachers, don’t want to lose a service. I agree that OT is valuable, but when it is no longer needed, it should be stopped. My guide uses progress indicators and developmental milestones to inform parents so they can be prepared to end services. It is in my opinion, a very important topic that does not get enough attention.
  3. Scope of Practice: Reading and math are core subjects that most people think are not affected by OT, but they are. One of my favorite pre-K lessons, focused on reading. The students worked on scanning and symbol recognition. These are fundamental skill components necessary for learning. OT’s work on fundamental skills and are so valuable in education.

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Welcome to RHT

Welcome to my first ever blog post. My name is Thomas Coleman. I am owner of Reaching Higher Therapy. I published Coleman Curriculum for School Based Occupational Therapy in 2013. I am working on some new projects and am collaborating with some new people so I decided that I should start a blog and share as I venture into new and exciting territories.

I am so excited that my friend is partnering with me to help my company, Reaching Higher Therapy, expand and grow. His name is Dr. Richard Flamini and he has been in special education for over 30 years. He has so much knowledge to share and loves collaborating with colleagues. My company has been established for 10 years and I have built some wonderful relationships along the way. I look forward to building more relationships and helping more people.

One of my newest relationships is with the United Way of NNJ. I am one of the educational consultants for their school climate initiative. It has been such a great learning experience. One of the coolest things to happen in my time there was an international training event. One of the other consultants, Teresa Lasala, invited a group of teachers from Iceland to New Jersey for training. The teachers are all from the same small community in Iceland and teach infant to Kindergarten. I was lucky enough to present on fine motor skills on one of the training days for about an hour. I enjoy meeting people from other cultures and sharing experiences. It was so good to globally promote OT.

Some more stuff about me. I love chess, hiking, political/current event  humor, and just being with my family and friends. I have been very hesitant to venture far into the world of social media, but I think I need to. As OT’s, we have our 100th year anniversary as a profession and I think that everyone needs to know how important OT is and how it has helped so many people.

Please check my blog for updates, stories, news, and tips as myself and our entire profession gets ready to celebrate 100 years of OT!!

A special shout out to Alison Hales, co-founder at Hands First for Learning, who has helped push me to start a blog. She is a great resource and a passionate OT who has a lot to share.