Occupational therapy is a "..supportive service required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education..." Students who receive occupational therapy services in the school setting have been determined to need occupational therapy in order to benefit educationally.
Occupational therapy combines the art and science of providing and directing activities that serve to restore and enhance performance of skills needed for functional daily living. The occupational therapist uses a variety of activities and adaptions in the areas of self-care, work and play to increase functional independence, enhance development, and prevent disability. The task or the environment may be adapted to promote maximum independence and improve quality of life.
One of a child’s roles is to be successful both academically and socially in school. Some children require a modified curriculum and/or additional assistance to achieve mastery in these areas. Through the use of adaptation, teaching, therapeutic intervention and play, an occupational therapist may support a child in reaching curriculum goals.
If a child is receiving private or clinical occupational therapy, will he/she automatically receive occupational therapy in the school setting?
Not necessarily. The goal of medical/clinical therapy is to treat the symptoms of the underlying cause of a child’s disability. The goal of educational therapy is to assist the student in attaining educational goals. For example, in clinical therapy a child’s goals may include increasing range of motion and decreasing muscle tone to improve quality of movement. In the educational environment, this child’s disability might not interfere with his/her ability to perform in the classroom and, therefore, he/she may not demonstrate an educational need for services in the school setting.
What are some examples of areas occupational therapists may address in the school setting?
- Fine motor skills
- Self-help skills
- Positioning techniques.
- Adaptive equipment.
- Sensory processing
How does the occupational therapist fit into the inter-disciplinary team?
Occupational therapy is a support service; one of our main goals is to assure that the student receives recommended programs and adaptations throughout each school day. To accomplish this, the instructional staff is trained by the occupational therapist to carry out these programs in all areas of the child’s educational environment. Working together as a team, the occupational therapist and school staff can provide the optimum means of achieving the IEP goals. Federal law mandates that each child should be served in the least restrictive environment. This often means that the child is working daily with his/her classroom teacher on a program recommended by the occupational therapist.