The Role of an Occupational Therapist (OT) in the School Setting:
An occupational therapist is a licensed healthcare professional that promotes participation in meaningful activities or occupations. School-based occupational therapy practitioners support academic achievement and social participation by promoting occupation within all school routines, including recess, classroom, and cafeteria time. They help children fulfill their role as students and prepare them for college, career, and community integration. They utilize prevention, promotion, and intervention strategies for mental and physical health and well-being.
When to Refer to an OT for Screening?
Student's visual-motor, visual-perceptual, coordination, or fine motor skills impact academic participation.
Student has sensory needs that impact self-regulation and learning.
Student struggles with timely or independently completing developmentally appropriate self-care skills, e.g., managing clothes in the restroom or feeding self.
A student has physical impairments, e.g., decreased strength or range of motion that impact academic participation.
How to Initiate Services?
When a student is displaying difficulty in the school setting and has not responded to tier 1 interventions completed with fidelity, the student assistance team (SAT) process should be initiated. The intervention specialist or other designated staff member at the school is responsible for coordinating the SAT process. The SAT team can include many individuals, like physical therapists, occupational therapists, teachers and parents. During this time, the OT or PT may complete a screening, after parent permission has been obtained, and propose additional interventions.
A minimum number of two SAT meetings are to be completed with documentation on interventions attempted and the response to that intervention prior to a special education referral being signed by the parent or guardian. After the referral has been signed a full evaluation for OT or PT services may be conducted.
Information adapted from the American Occupational Therapy Association.