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Background: Behavior, how one acts, influences occupation, the things one needs and wants to do. When a student struggles with the ability to regulate their behavior and actions, they are more likely to exhibit behaviors in the classroom that negatively impact their overall ability to participate in academic learning in the classroom (Walls & Rauner, 2015). Examples of these student behaviors include: Eloping from the classroom, yelling, tantrums, task refusal, physical and verbal aggression, standing on furniture, throwing materials, etc. Dealing with difficult student behaviors is difficult. This can impact a teacher’s ability to perform their responsibilities required of their work-related occupations. The literature has reported a decrease in elementary teacher and staff’s overall job-satisfaction, sense of confidence/competence, and overall motivation in relation to working with students who these inappropriate or unsafe behaviors on a regular basis. This had led to a recent increase in school staff feelings of “burnout” and higher rates of leaving the career field altogether (Brouwers and Tomic, 2000). Occupational therapists work with students in elementary schools but there is little evidence in the literature to support the role of occupational therapy (OT) in behavior management program development schools (AOTA, 2014). It should be noted that any issues observed in this project were likely exaggerated by the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to establish OT role in staff program development and increase staff and student occupational performance/participation in school-based occupations with the implementation of a behavior management skills program for staff use at Park Village Elementary School.

Methods: The needs assessment that informed the development of this pilot program was created with a Mixed-Method Approach. The needs assessment included informal classroom observations, an active classroom checklist, and an online-survey adapted from a survey used by Martin et al. (1999). Data was analyzed using coding for descriptive data and numerical data was collected and interpreted using the online platform Survey Monkey. The goal was to evaluate current behavior management methods used in the classroom as well as staff perception of their own abilities and confidence in behavior management with students in the classroom who require behavioral intervention. 11 staff members completed the online survey, 10 classrooms were observed informally, and 5 classrooms were observed using the active classroom checklist.

Preliminary Results: It was determined that there was a need for a pilot program to be developed to address the finding of the survey, observations, and interviews. It was determined that there was a need for further information and education to be provided to staff in relation to effective behavior strategies. Results of the pilot program show that it was effective in providing staff with information and resources on behavior management that met the needs of the staff at this school.

Discussion: Occupational therapists have a role in program development in beyond the typical role in the school setting. This study showed the importance of program development in for staff to increase occupational participation for both staff and students. A future program can be developed based on the success of the pilot program to deliver to the entire school staff population.

Publication Date

Fall 12-9-2021


University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

Medical Subject Headings

Primary Schools, Students, Problem Behavior, School Teachers, Occupational Therapy, Program Development, Needs Assessment, Surveys and Questionnaires


Occupational Therapy


Poster presented at the Fall 2021 Virtual OTD Capstone Symposium held online at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, December 9-10, 2021.

Exploring the Role of Occupational Therapy in the Development of Behavior Management Programs for Elementary School Teachers and Staff