The main goal of an occupational therapist is to treat injured, disabled, or ill patients that have difficulties performing everyday activities. Through the use of therapeutic activities, OTs can help these patients improve and recover the skills they need to continue through daily life with ease. It is often thought that occupational therapists are only in hospitals or healthcare facilities, but occupational therapy in schools is just as important. Step into any early elementary classroom, and you will likely see children who would benefit from pediatric occupational therapy.
Occupational Therapy Interventions in the Classroom
Occupational therapists play a critical role in a school setting. Not only are they helping children perform daily activities they are also assisting other school staff. An occupational therapist can enter a classroom and watch to see if children are using the proper grasp on a pencil. Do they need more practice to help their fine motor movement for better writing? In addition to this, many teachers note that students come to school without the ability to use scissors. This skill involves a lot of muscles and time. Having another adult in the room to work on this while teaching continues is less disruptive for all. While some students may not require OT time, they often pick up skills within small groups to assist them.
Some schools are working on occupational therapy integration. Traditionally, pulling a student out of class time for occupational therapy may mean drills and exercises to work on fine motor skills. While this is beneficial, seeing students in real-time during class will change up how therapists may address their needs. An occupational therapist may note that their student does well with small written assignments. However, when the writing task is longer, they shut down and do not want to do their work. If they are in the classroom, they may help the child to break it down and take it sentence by sentence until the work is complete. This will allow the child to build their confidence and complete work.
While occupational therapists can not help with general education but also tremendously with those who have special needs. Students with Autism are just one example of who can benefit from occupational therapy. Children with Autism often have underlying sensory issues that are difficult to detect. OTs can help these students with these issues and allow them to perform socially and academically better in a school setting.
Who Benefits from Occupational Therapy
The benefits of occupational therapy within the school extend much farther than the students who receive treatment. When an occupational therapist is present inside the classroom, that is another set of helping hands for the teacher. While the OT works with the students in need, the teacher can focus on instructing and worry about fewer disruptions. Occupational therapists also work with other special educators to create even more comprehensive IEPs. OTs can even provide feedback to school administrators and leaders to help implement school-wide policies that promote a safe and healthy environment conducive for academic success.
Not to mention, the parents of the children who receive occupational therapy are greatly benefitted from having an OT integrated within a school system. They might possibly have to spend less time with their child on their home assignments. Also, some parents might not have had the resources to get their children with the therapy they need, so having an occupational therapist working with them at school will greatly improve the child’s and parents’ quality of life outside the classroom.
Schools and districts should look at the needs of their students. If there are not enough therapists to work with all children, this may help to get additional children the support they need. Talk with classroom teachers to see how they would utilize such a program, and come up with plans to make scheduling work. The cost of this may help budgets, and the fact that more children will get assistance earlier on will save districts in the end.
If you are an occupational therapist ready to join the ProCare Therapy team and want to make an impact within a school district, follow the button below to search OT and COTA jobs across the country!