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Back to School Awareness About Backpacks, HCDE Therapy Services

Pack it Light: Wear it Right

HCDE Therapy Services raises awareness about backpacks

More than half the student population in Harris County will carry a heavier backpack load than recommended by health specialists in the 2012-2013 school year. As the school year begins, the safety message from the American Occupational Therapy Association is to “Pack it Light: Wear it Right ™.”

Strain from books on backs should be avoided by ensuring that a backpack is no more than 10 percent of the student’s weight, says Harris County Department of Education Therapy Services Director Jean Polichino.

Polichino is joining other occupational therapists and physical therapists this month to get the word out to parents and educators on how to load and wear backpacks as children go back to school.

National School Backpack Awareness Day sponsored by the American Occupational Therapy Association is held on Sept. 19 to raise awareness about avoiding pain and injury from heavy backpacks.

About 55 percent of students carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guidelines, according to a 2001 physical therapy study at Simmons College. The message is to ‘lighten up’ to avoid injuries that the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission says sends 7,000 children between ages of 5-14 to the emergency room each year.

Tips for backpack safety:

• Choose the right size pack for your child with regards to age; pick one that also has enough room for necessary school items

• Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back.

• Shoulder straps should be padded; adjust the straps so the pack fits snugly on the back.

• The bottom of pack should rest in the curse of the lower back and never more than four includes below the child’s waistline.

• Wear the backpack on both shoulders so weight is evenly distributed.

• Observe the 10 percent recommendation: a 100-pound student should carry no more than 10 pounds of books.

• If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis, you child can hand carry a book. Also consider a book bag on wheels if the school allows it.

For more information about backpack safety, go to or e-mail .

About HCDE: Harris County Department of Education provides education services to the general public and 26 school districts throughout Harris County and beyond. Services include adult education, programs to promote safe schools, after-school programs, therapy services, professional development for educators, special schools, alternative certification for principals and teachers, Early Childhood Intervention and Head Start programs. We offer purchasing procurement, grant development, program research and evaluation, records management, and school finance support. Since 1889, our services continue to evolve to meet the needs of our education public. Visit us at

Carol E. Vaughn, Communications/Media Relations Manager
Harris County Department of Education
6300 Irvington Blvd., Houston TX 77022
713-696-0756 office, 281-660-9205 cell

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