Occupational Therapy in schools
Occupational Therapists support a student’s ability to participate in desired daily school activities or “occupations.” They help children to fulfill their role as students by supporting their academic achievement and promoting positive behaviors necessary for learning. School occupational therapists support academic and non-academic outcomes, including social skills, math, reading and writing (i.e., literacy), behavior management, recess, participation in sports, sensory, self-help skills, prevocational/ vocational participation, transportation, and more. School-based OT is designed to enhance the student’s ability to fully access and be successful in the learning environment. ~AOTA
Fine Motor Skills
Fine Motor Skills are the skills used when you move your hand to do an activity. They involve the small muscles of the hand, and are necessary for performing many tasks in life. A lot of activities help in the development of fine motor skills, including weight bearing on the hands, postural control, shoulder stability, and muscle development. You need good fine motor skills to be able to develop drawing and writing skills, scissor skills, coloring, stringing beads, building with blocks and legos, and tying shoes.
Good hand strength is required to manipulate objects, control tools and complete fine motor activities. If a child has poor hand strength, they may fatigue during fine motor or handwriting tasks. Some activities to help develop hand strength include:
- Play with playdough. Use scissors to cut it, roll snakes with hands. roll it flat with a rolling pin, make balls of different sizes, pinch it and squeeze it, use cookie cutters, hide objects and find them
- Use toys that will develop hand strength and fine motor skills like legos, blocks, puzzles, lacing, stringing beads, tinker toys,
- Use tools around the house like tongs or tweezers to pick up beads, clothespins to clip on cans, clothes or clothesline, hole puncher to make confetti, spray bottle to water house plants.
How your child plays, learns, speaks, and acts offers important clues about your child’s development. Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age.
Self Help Skills
When children practice self-help skills such as feeding and dressing themselves, they practice their large and small motor skills, gain confidence in their ability to try new things and build their self-esteem and pride in their independence. Children have a drive to be independent and do things on their own. It can be faster and less messy to do things for children, but they learn so much from doing things for themselves.
Types of self-help skills:
- Self feeding
- Dressing and grooming
- Hygiene and toileting
- Daily chores
Sensory processing is the process that occurs when the brain and body organize the sensory input that they receive from the eyes (vision/sight), ears (hearing/auditory), skin (tactile/touch), mouth (gustatory/taste), muscles and joints (proprioception), and inner ear (vestibular). Good sensory processing makes it possible to use the input in a functional manner.
Handwriting has many components to it, including fine motor skills, and visual perceptual skills. In therapy, we work on the underlying causes of the problem in a task, so we wouldn’t necessarily be working on handwriting, we would be working on the problem that is causing the poor handwriting.
Some areas we work on to improve handwriting:
- grasp pattern
- visual motor skills
- visual perceptual skills
- fine motor skills
- pencil pressure, letter formation, line placement, line orientation, producing organized work
- copying from a book and from the board
- Go to the park and play on equipment or go for a walk.
- Use squirt bottles to water grass, flowers, or plants.
- Make a lemonade stand.
- Get outside! Go on a nature scavenger hunt. Try collecting items in a small bag and talking about them when you get home. Or, bring your camera! Take pictures of things that look interesting. Make a nature scrapbook with your pictures.
- Set up 2 buckets (1 full of water and 1 empty). Use a sponge to transfer water from one bucket to another bucket.
- Make the playdough recipe. Use scissors, rolling pins or cookie cutters to play with it. Roll out long snakes and try to make letters and numbers with them.
- Read a book and draw a picture about your favorite part.
- Write a letter to a friend or family member and mail it.
- Help cook a meal or make a snack.
Halloween Sensory Tips
Response to Intervention (RtI)
Occupational therapists support academic achievement and social participation of all students. Occupational therapists provide service as a collaborative member of the team to students, school-wide initiatives, or consulting with staff in the school. ~AOTA