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What is School Based Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a student-centered continuum of services provided by a licensed occupational therapist. Occupational therapy helps children and young adults with disabilities from birth to 22 years of age to benefit from their educational programs. Services may include assessment to determine strengths/needs; collaborating with teachers, families, students, and others on the environmental and material adaptations; developing strategies and activities to enhance performance; and providing student specific interventions. How is the need for Occupational Therapy Services determined? According to North Carolina policy, occupational therapy as a related service must be “required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education”.  For a student to receive school-based occupational therapy, the IEP team must answer yes to the following question: “Does the child require the specific knowledge and expertise of an occupational therapy practitioner at school in order to make progress on and benefit from his/her educational program?”  In other words, no other core school personnel or other service provider can address the need and without occupational therapy services, the student will NOT make progress on educational IEP goals. IEP teams are held to strict standard of requirement by DPI. What areas of school functioning are addressed by Occupational Therapy? Occupational Therapy services assist a student to successfully engage in school related “occupations” to participate in and benefit from his or her educational program. These occupations may include: o Personal care/self help skills o Engagement in student role/interaction skills o Learning academics/skills related to educational activities o Play/unstructured social time - teachers instruct, OTs support o Community integration/work –teachers instruct, OTs support o Graphic communication (written, typed, etc.) How is the delivery of Occupational Therapy services determined? Decisions on service delivery are made by the IEP team based upon IEP goals implemented in the least restrictive environment. Once special education service is determined, then how much or how often an occupational therapist needs to contribute to the educational goals, and how much and how often the teacher and other core school faculty require support from the occupational therapist guide related service delivery decisions. Teachers instruct skills in the school environment with support from related service personnel. In what ways do Occupational Therapists in the schools work with students? School-based Occupational Therapists use a variety of approaches to work with a student. These approaches can include:  Hands on intervention: This approach might be necessary to focus on remediation of deficits. o Example: poor hand dexterity/strength impacting skills of cutting, coloring, and/ or cutting)  Skills training: This approach would focus on developing a specific skill, which is needed for independence in the educational setting, and the specific expertise of an occupational therapist is needed to teach this skill. o Example: Self-feeding.  Strategies/programs: Within this approach, an Occupational Therapist would use his/her expertise to provide strategies, activities, and support to the classroom staff in order to help a student meet their educational goals. o Example: creating a sensory-motor break schedule How are students exited from occupational therapy as a related service? If the present level of academic and functional performance of the student, the skills of the IEP team, and the supports in the environment are supportive and sufficient for progress without occupational therapy, then occupational therapy as a related service is not included in the new plan.