The Participation Specialists: How Occupational Therapists Can Facilitate Inclusive Education

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About the Guest(s): Savitha Sundar, an Occupational Therpaist and Ph.D. candidate, specializes in inclusive practices for students with Extensive Support Needs. With over 15 years in public schools, she’s a champion for inclusive education, leveraging her OT expertise to foster access and participation. At Texas Woman’s University, she mentors future OTs and teaches as an adjunct faculty member. Savitha also serves as the Partnerships Officer at Changing Perspectives, promoting social-emotional learning. She also hosts the podcast “Inclusive Occupations,” inspiring the creation of inclusive communities for children and youth with disabilities.

Episode Summary: In this episode of Think Inclusive, Savitha and Tim discuss the nuances of including students with extensive support needs in general education. Savitha unpacks her transition from a traditional understanding of educational practices to pioneering inclusive education methodologies. Her commitment to nurturing social contexts that facilitate the engagement and growth of children with disabilities shines through as she retells experiences that reshaped her professional trajectory. Leveraging her background as an occupational therapist, Savitha passionately argues for a system-wide approach, where therapists go beyond addressing motor skills to facilitate comprehensive participation and inclusion within educational settings—making her a vital voice in the call for an educational paradigm shift. 


Key Takeaways:

  • Occupational therapy can play a significant role in inclusive education, especially when focusing on social contexts.
  • True social inclusion cannot be separated from academic inclusion, as interpersonal relationships entail community participation within an educational environment.
  • Participation specialists, a role occupational therapists can embody, actively work against exclusion and for authentic inclusion in education.
  • Utilizing occupational therapists as supplementary services in schools can open pathways for more effective universal design learning and inclusive practices.
  • Hands-on examples demonstrate the potential impact of occupational therapy beyond traditional applications, enhancing engagement for students with extensive support needs in general education.


Inclusive Occupations:

8 Ways Your School Might Be Doing Inclusion Wrong

Thank you to our sponsor for this episode, the Autism Society:


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