Occupational Therapy Head Ensures Students are Classroom- and #LifeReady

Joan Ogaitis leads the HCPSS occupational therapy program with a full heart and long-term vision as she works to remove learning barriers for students, so they can succeed in the classroom and ultimately in life. “Joan is really passionate about our kids, the program and our occupational therapists. She sees the big picture for our students, from early childhood to the next step after leaving the system,” said Dr. Emily Kinsler, coordinator, Countywide Services, Department of Special Education.

Ogaitis ensures HCPSS occupational therapy services enable students to “better access their school day,” she said. Therapeutic practices include working on cognitive perceptual processing, motor and self-help skills; accommodating sensory needs; and providing adaptive classroom materials and assistive technology. As program head, Ogaitis spends most of her time supporting her occupational therapists, problem-solving student challenges, and directing administrative and procedural matters.

One of Ogaitis’ biggest priorities is preparing students for life readiness after graduation. As a parent, she said she’s realized the importance “of focusing more on functional life skills with some of our more involved students, so that after they graduate or age out of the school system they will have more options for participation in continuing education, work settings and community life.” That’s one of the reasons she’s been developing OILS, “Ogaitis Independent Living Scale,” a checklist-type assessment that helps identify self-care needs and spell out intervention next steps. Ogaitis hopes to one day adapt this tool to assist the homeless with removing barriers from functioning in society.

Ogaitis has dedicated 21 years of her occupational therapy career, and 12 as program head, to HCPSS because “it feels like family,” she said. Additionally she has worked in-patient rehabilitation and acute care, out-patient clinical and home health settings. While at HCPSS, Ogaitis has been involved with the Maryland State Steering Committee for Occupational and Physical Therapy School-Based Programs, Maryland State Department of Education’s school mental health initiative, and HCPSS and Howard County transition groups.

Ogaitis’ original Staff Focus pro le can be found at: http://hcpssne.ws/2lXuUcS .

From Facebook

Glad to see her recognized!
—Sharon K.
Joan is awesome! Yay OT!
—Alena K. B.
Mrs. Ogaitis is wonderful. She truly cares and deserves this recognition.
—Nora H.
Yay Joan! She does so much for so many.
—Christine J.