Occupational Therapists (OT) assess and treat children who have difficulties that affect their ability to do everyday functional activities. OTs help the child achieve or maintain their maximum level of independence so they can access the school curriculum to his/her full potential.
When is occupational therapy needed?
Occupational therapy is needed when established school support is in place and the child or young person continues to experience issues with their school occupations. In partnership with the school staff, child or young person and parents/carers, strategies for enhancing participation will be explored, for example:
- • Changing the way the school task is done
- • Outlining modifications to the environment
- • Recommending or providing equipment
- • Teaching the child, young person or staff new techniques
- • Developing the child or young person’s skills and abilities
What areas do occupational therapists focus on in the school?
- • School work – including following instructions, working with others, keeping on task, writing, drawing, cutting and pasting, using the computer or playing sport.
- • Life skills – for example, putting on and taking off coats or shoes, changing for sport, using the toilet, eating lunch and managing belongings.
- • Break time and play – such as joining in games, talking with others and making friends, or using break times to recharge for the rest of the day.
- • Transitions – such as stopping one task and starting another, moving between classes, or changing settings from primary to secondary school, or transitioning to further and higher education or work.
How can occupational therapy services be provided?
A whole class or whole school (universal) approach
Collaborating with teachers and staff by providing relevant training and consultation for whole school or whole class approaches. Occupational therapists can advise on reasonable adjustments, support the school’s handwriting policy development, suggest environmental adaptations to support the canteen routine, or ensure the playground is inclusive.
A targeted or group approach
Working with individuals or groups of children or young people on activities such as improving dressing or writing skills, keeping focused on a task, making friends or planning transitions.
A specialist approach
Including individualised services with focused support for a child or young person in the school. An occupational therapist can provide a specialist chair so the child or young person can access table-top activities, working with technology providers to support a child or young person’s access to the curriculum or develop skills to play with peers during break times.