Occupational Therapy (OT) services in the school setting are different than therapies provided by hospitals, clinics or private practitioners. In the schools, therapists often rely on classroom observations and collaboration with parents and classroom teachers to determine how best to assist the student in achieving the goals of his/her educational program. School-based interventions may not address all needs.
Areas considered are posture and mobility (e.g. how and where the child sits, moves, uses hands, transitions around the building, etc.); how a child expresses what has been learned (e.g. written and alternate forms of communication, fine and visual-motor abilities); how a child performs in the student role (e.g. self-care, getting along with peers, attending, controlling behavior, being organized, following directions, working independently, etc.).
Once educationally relevant needs are identified, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is developed. The therapists can assist school personnel and parents to better understand the student’s needs and assist in developing effective strategies to use in school. Therapeutic intervention may focus on educating others, increasing the student’s skills, modifying the environment, adapting task expectations, utilizing adaptive equipment, or a combination of the above.
School occupational therapists provide services to students who demonstrate fine motor or sensory-motor difficulties that impact their ability to participate in educational activities.
As identified by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), educational based occupational therapists:
- Observe students engaging in activities and provide strategies to facilitate full participation
- Reduce barriers that limit student participation in the school environment
- Utilize assistive technology to support student participation and performance
- Assist with the development of long-term goals for post-school outcomes
- Collaborate with other members of the school-based team to identify a student’s annual goals, services, supports, modifications, accommodations and placement
- Help plan relevant instructional activities for classroom implementation
- Work with students to improve performance in a variety of learning environments
- Consult with parents to help them support their children’s participation in the school
- Collaborate with educators and support staff to plan and develop activities and environments in which all children can learn
- Consult with paraeducators to promote safety within the school environment
- Provide training for students, staff, and parents in modifications of classroom curriculum and utilization of equipment to allow access for all students.