Occupational therapists, working in a school setting, help students access educational services and to benefit from the special education program. The focus of occupational therapy is to remove any barriers that may impede the student's ability to complete school tasks.
School therapists evaluate the sensory motor functioning of students with disabilities and assist in determining service needs. They evaluate areas including fine motor, self-care and sensory processing.
Schools therapists address access to education for students with disabilities and assist in determining service needs. Examples might include modifying the child's school chair , adapting the computer keyboard or providing information to the school about ways to make the building or playground more accessible.
School therapists help educational staff plan, implement and monitor instruction of activities like handwriting, cutting and self-care.
Limitations of School Occupational Therapists
School-based occupational therapy services for children 3 to 21 are defined by laws as "related services" and thus must support the specially designed instruction listed on the IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) / IEP (Individual Educational Plan).
Related Services are provided when required to help a child with a disability to benefit from his/her special education program.
A motor delay or medical diagnosis involving motor dysfunction does not automatically indicate a need for school occupational services. There must be an adverse impact on the child's performance or access to education.
The Occupational Therapy Process:
1. Referral to occupational therapy
2. Occupational therapy screen.
3. If indicated from the screen, an evaluation may occur, with parent permission.
4. After the evaluation, the occupational therapist will determine if the student qualifies for services.
Information obtained from: Regional and Statewide Services for Students with Orthopedic Impairments and Occupational Therapy Practice in Pennsylvania's Public Schools: A position paper of the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association (October 2001).