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Occupational Therapy Corner: What, So What, Now What?

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L
The theme of the first group with our 3rd and 4th grade Social Adventurers was change; how difficult it can be, how resistant we can be to change, and yet, how important it is to learn how to manage ourselves in the midst of these transitions. Change is a fundamental part of each new school year… new teachers, different classmates, new room, new rules, new everything! And our students have a really hard time with change! When I googled “resistance to change” I came across a business presentation that used the words: “What?” “So What?” and “Now What?” as a model for introducing change within an organization. I found it rather fascinating and decided to try it with our group. We use what we call, “Social Catch Phrases” to help our kids remember important principles of social interaction so these simple words fit right in with our typical style.
Meghan and I introduced a group project using the three small questions:
WHAT?: What are we doing? We are building ONE tall structure as a group using clay and tooth picks.
SO WHAT?: We are doing this activity to practice working together as a team. It is important to learn how to do things with other people, how to listen to our friends, respond to our friends, appreciate their ideas, be flexible, and take turns. We want our friends to do the same thing for us and all this takes practice. We are doing this activity to practice these skills in a fun way.
NOW WHAT?: Now we need to plan. What are the steps? How are we going to accomplish this goal?
Then we set the kids loose. There were a couple kids trying to direct everything but basically, each child began building a structure directly in front of themselves with their own materials. We held up the “WHAT?” card and reminded them that the activity was to build only one structure. As they continued to work and become frustrated, the question emerged, “Why can’t we just build our own structure?” We then held up the “SO WHAT?” card, reminding them that they were learning how to work together as a team, to be flexible, etc. The kids began to work together which resulted in some heated discussions over where to put pieces, whose creation would be on top, and where to add elaborate pieces (that did not in fact lead to the ultimate goal of creating a tall structure). The kids’ attention was directed to the “NOW WHAT?” card as they were asked to pause and talk about how they could use what they have already built to produce a tall structure. Is it important that one child’s piece is on top or that the pieces below could support the top and have it stay up? What could they do now to accomplish the goal?
There were a few tears along the way, and definitely some frustration but in the end, the kids accomplished the goal and all seemed pleased with the result.
Featured Author/Website: Jill Perry  MHA, M.S. OTR/L of All 4 My Child
Jill Perry, MHA, M.S., OTR/L is the Director of Occupational Therapy Services . She is an occupational therapist and general partner at CTA with over 25 years of experience working with children. Her clinical interests include working with children who have non-verbal learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and sensory processing disorders. Jill is an Associate Practitioner for Integrated Listening Systems®, (iLs), a Tomatis based auditory program with specific visual and vestibular stimulation. She is also a provider of The Listening Program®, (TLP), a music listening therapy. In 2005 Jill earned her master’s degree in health administration from Suffolk University. In addition to working as a clinical occupational therapist, Jill enjoys working with families as the OT intake coordinator at CTA.
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