Occupational therapists are highly-trained professionals who work in a variety of environments for different needs. School-based occupational therapists are critical in helping ensure that children are able to meet their full potential when it comes to academic activities. These functions may include the fine motor skills required for handwriting, cutting with scissors, or physical and sensory organizational skills that will allow them to be comfortable and successful at their desk or work space.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) mandates that children who require special services in school, like occupational therapy, receive these services based upon their level of need. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be developed with input from the parents and the multidisciplinary team at school, including the classroom teacher, to determine the child’s eligibility and service plan. Read below for a glimpse into the partnerships held between occupational therapists and school-based professionals on the multi-disciplinary team.
Depending on the severity of your child’s needs, his or her classroom teacher may be one of the first professionals to notice or recommend further evaluation into their occupational skills. The teacher will be an important part of the initial consultation with the occupational therapist, as they will provide information about observations of the student’s day-to-day performance.
In a school setting, therapy time may be limited; pulling the child from academic obligations may be counterintuitive. As a result, the speech-language therapist and occupational therapist may collaborate to provide co-therapy that can be the most productive option for your child. The therapists may have similar goals related to attending to task, and social interaction, so collaboration is critical to prevent duplication of efforts.
Physical Education (Gym) Teacher:
The PE teacher at your child’s school will often see their interaction with others in a setting involving an increase in movement. Since occupational therapy is often indicated for needs in the sensory and movement domains, the input from the PE teacher is important to observe any patterns, needs, or changes in your child’s performance in this environment.
The administrative team at your child’s school is a part of the multidisciplinary team that makes decisions about the school’s resource allocation. This may include hiring of new professionals, procurement of therapy tools or equipment, or the opportunity for teachers and other paraprofessionals to receive specialized training. The school occupational therapist can be a huge advocate for the presence of these resources in the school, which can work to benefit your child’s progress.
It’s important to consider your child’s resources through school. Get to know the staff on the multidisciplinary team and make sure they know your child’s needs and concerns.