Occupational Therapy: Skills for the Job of Living – Learning by All Students
Occupational therapy (OT) is concerned with a person’s ability to participate in desired daily life activities or “occupations”. In the schools, OT practitioners use their expertise to help children to participate in learning and school-related activities and to fulfill their role as students. Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants support academic and non-academic outcomes including social skills, math, reading, writing, recess, play, participation in sports, self help skills, pre-vocational/vocational participation and more, for children and students with disabilities, 3 – 22 years of age.
School-based occupational therapy is available for students who are eligible for special education services under federal and state laws. IDEA04 governs the provision of special education and related services such as OT to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Occupational therapists complete assessments and collaborate with other members of the education team to identify a student’s annual goals and determine the services that are required for the student to achieve these goals. When the IEP team determines that OT is needed for a student in order to meet his or her annual goals, then occupational therapy services are part of the student’s IEP. Children may also be eligible for OT services under other federal laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
In Watertown Public Schools, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are part of the education team in the preschool setting through the high school. Intervention may be provided in a variety of ways. Direct services take place in or out of the classroom, with individuals or in small groups. Consultation services are provided to work with school staff to assist in goal achievement. Modifications to the curriculum are made with the individual student’s needs in mind. Accommodations are developed to adapt the task, materials or environment to allow the student full access.
The OT staff at Watertown Public Schools provides valuable services to meet the needs of the broader population beyond what is required under IDEA04. As part of RTI (Response to Intervention), occupational therapy staff participates in pre-referral activities to address student behavior and learning needs. Additionally, they play an important role in training parents, other staff members, and caregivers regarding educating students with diverse learning needs.