Occupational therapy in the schools incorporates using functional activities to increase independence in children with disabilities. “The word occupation in the field of occupational therapy means active participation in self-maintenance, work, leisure, and play” (p. 43 DPI OT/PT Resource Guide). It is important that in therapy, the child is working on something that is purposeful to him or herself. Occupational therapy can assist the child with increasing independence in self-cares and functional mobility. OT also incorporates improving visual-motor skills, visual perceptual skills and sensory processing capabilities.
OT in the schools is governed by state and federal laws and is a related service to a child’s special education programming. Occupational therapy provides support to children receiving special education only if he/she needs therapy to function in the educational setting. In schools, the need for therapy is determined by the IEP team. The team designates the amount, frequency and duration of intervention. Occupational therapy can be provided as direct or indirect therapy. Direct therapy incorporates working directly with the child. Indirect therapy includes consulting with team members and providing strategies to use in the classroom setting. Therapists may provide services in a variety of educational environments which may include classrooms, gyms, playgrounds, lunchrooms, kitchens, bathrooms or a therapy room.
Who can provide occupational therapy in the school setting?
Occupational therapy can only be provided by qualified and trained practitioners. Certified occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) are qualified occupational therapy practitioners who work under the supervision of occupational therapists. In the West Allis West Milwaukee School District, we currently have 4 full time occupational therapists and 2 full time COTAs. All OTRs and COTAs are licensed by the State of Wisconsin and Department of Public Instruction (DPI). We are also certified by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). The COTAs share the OTRs’ caseload.
For more information about Occupational Therapy, please visit the following sites:
www.dpi.state.wi.us – Department of Public Instruction
www.wota.net/online/-Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association
www.aota.org- American Occupational Therapy Association
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY STAFF