Occupational Therapy Services

What is Occupational Therapy in the Schools?

  • Occupational therapy is a related service that supports students ages 3 through 21 with their academic achievement and functional performance.  In order for students to receive services under federal law IDEA, the student needs to be eligible for special education, and occupational therapy must be necessary to assist that student in benefiting from their special education program.

  • Students may also qualify for school based Occupational Therapy via section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  Students who meet the 504 definition as a person with a disability, yet who do not qualify for special education under IDEA, may require reasonable accommodations in the general education curriculum in order to have equal opportunity as defined as a “free and appropriate public education”. Section 504 requires an accommodation plan for all students with a diagnosed disability, where that disability is impacting their ability to access the curriculum.  Occupational therapists can have a variety of roles for students who qualify for services under Section 504.  These include: environmental adaptations, modifying equipment, etc..

  • The profession of occupational therapy is concerned with a person's ability to participate in daily life activities or "occupations".   The occupation of a student in school includes everyday skills such as the use of school materials, written work, behavior/self-regulation, self-care, functional and vocational activities.

  • Occupational therapists, as part of an education team, provide the most effective therapy intervention services when delivered according to a collaborative model, using a team approach in the design and implementation of the student's Individualized Educational Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan.

Service delivery Models:

  • Direct Service- Therapy is provided individually or in a small group setting with specific, targeted goals.  This model can occur either in the classroom or a separate setting.

  • Indirect/Consultative Service- The Occupational Therapist supports the teacher/staff/family in addressing the student‘s goals and objectives by making suggestions for accommodations and/or modifications.  The therapist can also provide teachers, other staff members and family members with specific strategies to address the student’s areas of need.

What is the role of the Occupational Therapist in SRBI (RTI)?

SRBI is an evidenced based education framework intended to identify problems that students are having early.  SRBI is implemented as a Three Tiered Model.  In the first tier, the Occupational Therapist may have a consultative role to assist educators in implementing practices that support core instructional programs.  At the second tier, Occupational Therapists may provide teachers with interventions and strategies for whole class or small group instruction.  Students who continue to require assistance at tier three may receive short term direct Occupational Therapy support to address specific targeted goals.

What areas do school based Occupational Therapists address?

  • Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

  • Feeding Skills

  • Writing

  • Fine Motor Skills

  • Sensory Processing Skills

  • Visual Perceptual and Visual Motor Skills

  • Pre-Vocational/Vocational Skills

Medical vs. School Based Services:

It is important to recognize that there is a difference between occupational therapy treatment within the schools and within a medical setting (hospital/outpatient treatment). Individuals may be recommended for occupational therapy outside of the schools, yet may not be "eligible" for services within the schools. Students may receive direct occupational therapy support ONLY when eligible for special education services or when qualifying for a Section 504 Plan.  In addition, a student may have a diagnosed "disability" yet may not be eligible for occupational therapy services within the schools. The disability MUST impact success within the general education curriculum in order for the student to be eligible for occupational therapy services within the school setting.