As occupational therapists in the school system, we are no longer related service providers. By changing the term used to describe our services, we are now better supported in the classroom.
What is Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP)?
In 2015, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was approved. This law changed the function and title of all support staff in the education system. The law now states that Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP) includes:
school social workers
physical and occupational therapy
orientation and mobility services
medical services, except that such medical services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only
We are not part of the employee system
However, that doesn’t change the fact that most OTs are not part of their local school employee system. Most OTs and PTs are contracted through outside agencies. Because we are contracted, we are typically not included in the employee benefits packages and we cannot advance through the education hierarchy to achieve upper-level management positions unless we obtain an education degree to supplement our current license.
Our unique skills and level of education should not make this a demand on our resouces. Our knowledge base provides us as uniquely qualified to develop programming that more specifically targets the unusual learner.
What are we to do?
Now that the law has redefined our place in the system, shouldn’t we have equal rights as a school pyschologist or a speech language pathologist? Miss Jaime OT has been working with the NYOTA and AOTA along with many other credentialing agencies. She has a video that helps explain our new position in the educational system and the obstacle that we need to climb.
In summary, related service provider is no longer a term that is recognized by the government under ESSA 2015. All occupational therapy practitioners are now Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP).
Moreover, Rep David Loebsack has introduced a bill into the House making the second week of April Specialized Instructional Support Personnel Week. In 2019, it was April 8-12. Although the date has passed, I want to wish each and every Specialized Instructional Support Person a wonderful post week thank you for everything that you do.