- What are occupational therapy services in the school setting and what is the role of the therapist?
- What do occupational therapy services look like in the school setting?
- How is a student referred for occupational therapy services?
- How is a student assessed for occupational therapy services?
- How does a student qualify for occupational therapy services?
- When is a student dismissed from occupational therapy?
- What is the difference between school based occupational therapy and private occupational therapy?
- What are the licensing requirements for an occupational therapist?
Occupational therapy in the school setting is a related service which provides assistance to students already in special education allowing them to benefit from specially designed educational programs. The occupational therapist supports the student’s ability to gain access to the general education curriculum in accordance with his/her Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and to function across all educational settings. Federal and state laws mandate that occupational therapy services provided in the schools are educationally relevant.*
Occupational therapists in the schools work with students on skills which typically fall in the areas of fine motor, visual motor, self-help and self-regulation needed to access curriculum and/or the physical environment. The occupational therapist uses a problem solving approach to task analyze educational activities in order to help the student participate more successfully and access the educational environment.
Occupational therapy services are provided in a variety of settings within the school. The goal is to deliver the services to the student during naturally occurring routines so that the student can practice the newly acquired skills in the environment in which the skill is needed. Services are delivered in the educational environment in areas pertinent to the student’s individual needs. This could include the classroom setting, music, art, cafeteria, gym, job placement, etc.
Because occupational therapy supports an instructional need, occupational therapists become co-implementers on goals and objectives that are developed collaboratively for the student’s IEP, therefore, there are no standalone OT goals on a student’s IEP. The goals and objectives are integrated in an effort to allow the student to generalize the skills across people and environments and develop strategies for daily task or activity performance. Services are provided in collaboration with general education teachers, special education teachers, support staff, and/or other service providers such as physical therapists, speech therapists, or adapted PE teachers.
A student must be eligible for special education services to receive occupational therapy. Should concerns arise in the areas of fine motor, visual motor, self-help and/or self-regulation skills, the occupational therapist should be contacted. Any member of the student’s educational team, including the parent, may raise concerns related to the above areas. The occupational therapist then gathers information from the teachers, parents, support staff, and/or the student, including strategies that have been utilized within the classroom setting related to the area(s) of concern. As appropriate, information from private providers may also be considered in conjunction with the information gathered in the school setting. The Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) team, including the occupational therapist, will consider the information and determine if an evaluation is needed. The occupational therapist must be involved in planning for an evaluation.
An occupational therapy evaluation can be conducted as part of an initial evaluation for special education services, or the evaluation can be conducted after the initial special education evaluation and placement. In either instance, written consent is needed by the parent/guardian/adult student in order to conduct the evaluation. An evaluation is conducted by the occupational therapist to assess if there are fine motor, visual motor, self-help and/or self-regulation deficits that are impacting the student’s ability to access the curriculum and educational environment. The evaluation may include standardized tests, checklists, classroom observations, and/or analysis of work samples. Any additional information not previously gathered from parents, staff, student, and/or other outside providers is obtained at this time.
Once the occupational therapy evaluation is complete, an Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meeting is held to review the results. The ARD committee members determine if there is an educational need that is interfering with the student’s success in the classroom that occupational therapy services can support to help the student meet his/her educational goals.
- The student is no longer eligible for special education.
- The student has mastered all of the goals agreed upon in the ARD meeting and there are no other identified educational needs where occupational therapy is warranted.
- The ARD committee determines other members of the educational team can provide necessary interventions.
Although occupational therapy interventions used with the student at school may be the same as interventions used in private therapy, priorities may be different. Outside the school system, therapy focuses on optimizing the child’s functional and physical performance in relation to medical considerations and needs in the home and community settings. Sessions are typically provided in a one-on-one setting focusing on discrete skill development. In the school setting, therapy focuses on the student accessing the curriculum and school environment and must be educationally relevant. In the schools, the goals and interventions address the student’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance. Eligibility for private occupational therapy services does not necessarily mean the student will qualify for occupational therapy services in the school setting.
- graduated with a Bachelor's degree (prior to 2007) or a Master's degree (after 2007) in Occupational Therapy from an accredited program, and
- passed a national exam, and
- be licensed by the state Texas
The following criteria must be met to be a practicing Occupational Therapist Assistant (OTA) in a private or school setting in Texas:
- graduated with an Associate's degree in Occupational Therapy from an accredited program, and
- passed a national exam, and
- be licensed by the state of Texas
Texas licensure must be renewed every two years, and 30 hours of continuing education is required during that time frame. In addition, a passing score is required on the jurisprudence exam based on the Texas Practice Act and Rules. An OT/OTA may also be registered with the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT); however this is not a requirement.
If an OT/OTA is licensed and registered, the letters OTR, OTR/L, or COTA may be used behind their name. If they are not registered, they may use the letters OT, LOT, or OTA behind their name.