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Occupational Therapy and Self-Regulation – A Panel Discussion on Collaboration Between Teachers and Occupational Therapy Practitioners

Occupational Therapy and Self-Regulation – A Panel Discussion on Collaboration Between Teachers and Occupational Therapy Practitioners
Robert Pennington, PhD, BCBA-D, Deborah B. Schwind, DHSc, OTR/L, BCP, SCSS, Jon Daly, special education teacher, MA in Special Education, Janine Schatz, Intervention Specialist, Sarah Sullivan, OT, Breanna Lynch, OT, Erin L. Nesheim, M.Ed.
  • Moderator: Robert Pennington, PhD, BCBA-D
  • Deborah B. Schwind, DHSc, OTR/L, BCP, SCSS
  • Jon Daly, special education teacher, MA in Special Education
  • Janine Schatz, Intervention Specialist
  • Sarah Sullivan, OT
  • Breanna Lynch, OT
  • Erin L. Nesheim, M.Ed.

This panel discussion explores the value of a strong collaboration between teachers and occupational therapy practitioners. Panelists from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) will provide examples of how this collaboration benefits both students with and without disabilities with self-regulation development, as well as other developmental and educational targets.


Objectives of the panel:

To discuss, analyze, and identify opportunities as it relates to: 

  • Best practices for teacher/ occupational therapy practitioner collaboration 
  • How to reinforce basic occupational therapy interventions in the classroom 
  • Best practices for improving a student’s self-regulation through an occupational therapy lens

Created in partnership with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), these practice-based webinars are designed to help those in the special education field deepen their understanding of self-regulation and best practices for collaboration between teacher and occupational therapy practitioner.

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AOTA American Occupational Therapy Association Logo



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About the Moderator and Presenters

Robert Pennington PhD BCBA-D

Robert Pennington PhD BCBA-D is the Lake and Edward J Snyder, Jr. Distinguished professor in Special Education. He has over 30 years of experience working with individuals with disabilities, their families, and teachers. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2010 and since has published 75 articles, book chapters, and books related to working with persons with ASD and intellectual disability. Robert is passionate about the dissemination of research-based practice and has provided hundreds of refereed and invited presentations to researchers, practitioners, and families. He also values service to field and his local communities through membership on numerous advisory and editorial boards, leadership in professional organizations, and consultation. In 2018, he was awarded the President’s Distinguished Faculty award in the area of service and currently serves as the past-president of CEC’s Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities. His current research interests involve behavior analytic communication instruction, expanding students’ repertoires in written expression, and improving educational programming for students with severe disabilities.


Deborah B. Schwind, DHSc, OTR/L, BCP, SCSS

Deborah B. Schwind, DHSc, OTR/L, BCP, SCSS is a school-based occupational therapist currently working in Loudoun County Public Schools in Northern Virginia where she works with preschoolers through age 22.  She has over 30 years of experience as an OT ranging from pediatric rehab and NICU to home health and early intervention in addition to her school-based practice.  She has served as an adjunct professor at Tidewater Community College and Northern Virginia Community College in the OTA programs and serves on the Transition Community of Practice for AOTA.  She completed her doctoral work at Drexel where she performed a program evaluation on addressing transition skills in elementary school to ensure post-secondary success.  She has been published and has presented for a variety of organizations. 


Jon Daly

Jon Daly, special education teacher in La Grange School District 102, MA in Special Education (2018).  This is my fourth year serving as a special education teacher and working with school-based occupational therapists.  Inspired to teach special education since I was eight years old, as I had learning difficulties and was inspired by the teachers who worked with me.  Currently, I am teaching second grade special education with a wide variety of IEP eligibility categories ranging from Autism to developmental delay.  Working as a team is crucial for the success of our students.


Janine Schatz

Janine Schatz is an Intervention Specialist that works with students in first and second grade at Mason Early Childhood Center in Mason, Ohio. She has 17 years of teaching experience as an Intervention Specialist.  Janine received her bachelor’s degree at Miami University, master’s degree at Xavier University, and was a recipient of the Project of Excellence in Teaching Educator Award in 2018. Janine has worked in a small group specialized classroom called SCSF (Social Communication and School Fundamentals).  She supports students who typically have severe communication and/or behavioral needs and may receive their academic instruction in the small group classroom.  There is a high adult-to-student ratio, so she works closely with a team of professionals (Occupational therapists, Speech and Language Pathologists, paraprofessionals, and classroom teachers) to provide students with every opportunity to succeed to their fullest potential.


Sarah Sullivan

Sarah Sullivan has been an OT for LADSE, a suburban Chicago area special education co-op for 18 years. She has worked with children, families, and districts on IEP teams serving preschool-aged children through high school transitioning young adults. Prior to earning her master’s degree in occupational therapy, Sarah was a fourth-grade teacher and served as a 1:1 para-educator. Her philosophy is that effective communication and the therapeutic use of self is the fundamental component of successful IEP team interactions.


Breanna Lynch

Breanna Lynch is an occupational therapist working as a Prevention and Wellness Designer at Mason City Schools, specifically Mason Elementary and Mason Intermediate Schools, in Mason, Ohio. Breanna earned her Master of Occupational Therapy at Xavier University. She began her career as an outpatient pediatric occupational therapist, specializing in sensory integration and trauma-informed interventions. She spent time working one on one with clients, as well as being a part of a multidisciplinary clinical team, providing therapy services for children and their families who have experienced complex trauma and subsequent mental health challenges. Her current work at Mason City Schools highlights the ways in which occupational therapists provide an important and distinct perspective on regulation and should be integral in preventative health models across all tiers of school-based support. As part of an interdisciplinary team, Breanna collaborates daily with teachers, administrators, and support staff to ensure that wellness for staff and students is prioritized in classroom management and environments, building systems, and responses to challenging behavior. She continues to provide ongoing professional development opportunities about occupational therapists' role in mental health and trauma-informed practice as a facilitator for the American Occupational Therapy Association Pediatric Trauma Community of Practice. Breanna is also a published author in this content area in collaboration with Xavier University’s Department of Occupational Therapy. 


Erin L. Nesheim

Erin L. Nesheim is a 3rd grade teacher currently working for Loudoun County Public Schools in Northern Virginia.  She has 18 years of experience teaching students from kindergarten to 8th grade. She received her Bachelor degree in Elementary Education K-8 from West Virginia Wesleyan College.  She also holds a Special Education Endorsement and an Early Childhood Endorsement.  Erin has a Master’s in Education, with an emphasis on Reading, from the University of Virginia and an Educational Leadership Master’s degree from George Mason University. Erin currently teaches third grade and continues to serve as one of the inclusion classrooms at her school.  She was the 2000 Elementary Teacher of the Year in Prince William County. During her teaching career, Erin has served as CLT Leader and Team Leader, and she is currently serving as her school’s Lead Mentor for new teachers.  She also has conducted various Professional Developments for the Cedar Lane staff.  Outside of school, Erin has worked on the VDOE SOL Review Committee for 4 years.

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