What does OT look like in a school?

  • What is Occupational Therapy?

    A school based Occupational Therapy (OT) program targets those students who demonstrate evidence of a fine motor, sensory integrative and /or perceptual problem that is interfering with their academic achievement. The focus of OT services in a school setting is to promote functional independence or participation within the educational environment through purposeful and goal directed activities. Federal law mandates that OT and PT services in the school system be educationally relevant.


    Who provides the services?

    Services are provided by a licensed occupational therapist. A therapist is a trained health care professional that has the knowledge of neuroscience, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and normal motor development.


    Who gets OT and PT services?

    An initial referral is generated from a member of the educational team when a concern is identified which is impacting the students performance in the classroom. Examples may include (but are not limited to) difficulties with the following tasks:

    • immature pencil grasp
    • copying from the board
    • regulating levels of alertness
    • manipulating classroom objects

    After the initial referral is received, the therapist obtains parent permission to evaluate the student. A variety of standardized assessment tools, as well as clinical observations, are used to determine if the student qualifies for services. A child may be recommended to receive therapy services using a direct or consultative service model based upon needs identified by the therapy evaluation.


    How are services delivered?

    Frequency, intensity, duration and location of services are determined by student need and professional judgment. Services can be provided in a variety of models such as:


    • Direct service (individually or in a small group)
    • Indirect service (consultation with educational team members)
    • Classroom modifications

    Therapy sessions most commonly occur at a frequency of one to two 30-minute sessions per week and are provided during the school day. The ultimate goal of therapy is for the student to achieve a level of function that allows them to derive maximum benefit from their educational environment and no longer require therapy services.


    Multidisciplinary Partnerships 

    Therapists, students, parents and teachers must communicate and work closely together to promote success within the educational environment.  Therapists use both verbal and written communication with families and educational team members to ensure carryover of therapeutic strategies across all settings.


    The educational team may include but are not limited to parents, teachers, teacher assistants, school nurse teacher, caseworker, school psychologist, principal, therapists, pediatrician and assistive technologist.


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