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Students - Student Support / Health & Nursing Services - Occupational Therapy

What is Occupational Therapy in the Educational Setting?

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are part of the education team within a school district. The profession of occupational therapy is concerned with a person’s ability to participate in desired daily life activities or “occupations.” A child’s primary occupations are play and school. In the school setting, occupational therapists use their unique expertise to help children to be prepared for and perform important learning and school related activities and to fulfill their role as students. Occupational therapists work with children ages 3 to 21who qualify for special education services as defined by Article 7.

Please refer to www.aota.org
 for more information about occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy is a related service. A student must be receiving special education services in order to be considered eligible for related services. Related services are services which are necessary in order to benefit a child in an educational setting. Related services must be directly related to the child’s ability to be successful in the recommended special education program. (511 IAC 7-3-44). The purpose of occupational therapy in the school setting is to support a child’s educational goals as defined by his/her Individualized Educational Plan.

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants can provide services directly, integrated or on a consultation basis. Occupational therapists work collaboratively with teachers, paraprofessional staff and /or parents to facilitate a child’s performance in a particular need area.

Some of the areas addressed by OT

Fine Motor Skills (being able to appropriately use classroom tools using a variety of grasps/hand manipulation (e.g. scissors, pencils, paintbrushes, glue sticks, etc)
Visual-Motor Skills (copying prewriting shapes needed for letter formation, cutting skills, replicating block designs, doing mazes and puzzles, etc.)
Self-Help Skills (as it relates to the educational setting: may include, manipulation of fasteners, managing belongings, self-feeding skills, etc.)
Sensorimotor Abilities (Student’s ability to process sensory information. Difficulties with sensory processing must impact a student’s ability to function in the educational setting.)
Sensory areas may include: tactile (touch), proprioceptive (received from joints and muscles and provides the body with information regarding where the body is in space and where body parts are in relation to one another), vestibular (movement), auditory, oral and visual

When to Refer:

Students may be referred for an Occupational therapy evaluation by teachers, parents, therapists, or other members of the case conference committee. The reason for referral may be a concern in one or more of the following areas that significantly impact their performance in their specific education program.

Areas may include: Fine motor skills, visual motor skills, self care, or sensory processing abilities.

If the student is only having minor difficulties in one area or only needs adaptations, a screening or observation may be requested prior to the referral for evaluation to determine whether a full evaluation is necessary.
Please refer to the Teacher Tips (under the Occupational Therapy heading under Staff) for suggestions to try for children experiencing difficulty with any of the above areas before requesting an Occupational therapy evaluation.

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