What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?
Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability.
Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. Occupational therapy services typically include:
An individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals,
Customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
An outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.
Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. It is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.
School-Based Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy practitioners provide a continuum of service and support to students and personnel under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the reauthorization of ESEA, most recently enacted as The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, including:
Services for struggling learners in general education: Practitioners can contribute in an early intervening, multi-tiered approach (i.e., Response to Intervention) within general education. Occupational therapists can assist with periodic screenings/probes (including both data collection and analysis), provide teacher training, model activities to whole classrooms or small groups, and assist with team problem solving.
Services for individual students in special education: Evaluation services assist the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team with identifying the presence of a disability and whether there is an educational need for occupational therapy services. Occupational therapy intervention is provided directly “to the child, or on behalf of the child, and [as]...program modifications or supports for school personnel” (IDEA, 20 USC, Section 1414 (d)(1)(A) IV). This may include adapting the environment, modifying curriculum, supporting accommodations, ensuring access and participation in school activities and educational programs, and assisting in preparation for transition post-graduation. Services take place in natural school settings during the routines of the school day, and are most beneficial when they occur at the location and time that the student is experiencing challenges. Services are designed to support progress on the student’s IEP. Students who are not eligible for special education may receive occupational therapy services under a Section 504 plan. Services are designed to ensure students have equal access to all aspects of the school day and support student participation and success in general education.
Training and resources for school personnel and families: Practitioners can provide training in typical and atypical child development and the impact of physical and mental health on learning and participation at school. Training of school personnel in lifts and transfers can ensure student safety and prevent staff back injuries. Occupational therapy practitioners can contribute to universal design for learning (UDL), support the use of assistive technology, and provide information on positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) including bullying prevention.
Participating on collaborative teams: As members of IEP teams, technical assistance teams, problem-solving teams, and curriculum committees, practitioners bring their unique skills to aid students in accessing learning opportunities. They support student participation in school routines while promoting independence.
Partnering with districts: Occupational therapy practitioners focus on helping students achieve their academic and behavior outcomes which in turn improve school districts’ ability to meet state and national achievement standards (i.e., Common Core State Standards). Practitioners can help students prepare for future employment and life skills needed for community integration.
American Occupational Therapy Association: www.aota.org