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Role of the Occupational Therapist
In the schools, Occupational Therapists assess the student’s functional skills through the use of purposeful activity and identify areas of difficulty relating to their educational needs. The primary concern for the school OT is enabling the student to learn and access his or her learning environment (classroom, playground, etc). Rather than rehabilitate a deficit, the school OT may adapt or modify the environment or offer the teacher strategies to implement on a daily basis to afford success. Because a student is at school to learn, pulling a child out of the classroom for “therapy” may not be the best approach to promote learning progress. It is the therapist’s role to provide intervention to enable the child to access the curriculum to the best of his/her ability.
Areas of Practice
All therapy within the educational setting must have a relationship to educational performance while directly impacting the student’s ability to benefit from their educational experiences. Occupational Therapists in schools need to identify the educational significance of therapy provided to the student. The most common educational purposes for the student to receive OT services within the school environment are listed below:
- Fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and coordination for effective manipulation of classroom tools.
- Enhancing school mobility and participation in educational activities, such as the classroom, playground, etc.
- Increasing visual perceptual skills for interpretation of visual information.
- Increasing visual motor integration for classroom tasks.
- Encouraging independence in activities of daily living, such as eating, using utensils, managing clothing, self-grooming, and hygiene.
- Enhancing the ability to learn through sensorimotor activities that address motor planning, attending, and sensory regulation issues.
- Facilitating student’s independence through access to assistive technology.
- Improving overall body scheme to increase gym and playground skills as well as increase comfort in movement in space.