What is occupational therapy?
- Occupational therapy is a health care profession concerned with a person’s ability to perform daily occupations, including self-care, productive and leisure activities.
- Occupational therapists are trained to assess and treat occupational performance problems in the environments where these occupations are being done.
- Occupational performance is a determinant of health, well-being and helps give meaning to life, starting therapy age appropriate 8 months.
Goal of occupational therapy in the school system
Maximizing the occupational performance of the student with special needs. A child’s occupational performance may be impaired by physical, developmental, sensory, attention and/or learning challenges. The goal of occupational therapy is to improve the student’s performance of tasks and activities important for successful school functioning. The occupational therapist is concerned with ensuring an understanding and match between the student’s skills and abilities and the expectations placed on him/her in the school setting.
Recommendations of task adaptations, task modifications and assistive devices (e.g. mechanical lift, writing aid) may be necessary to optimize the child’s performance in the school setting. Direct intervention to improve, restore, maintain or prevent deterioration in the skills required for functioning in the school environment is often necessary; for example, therapy to develop the motor coordination, visual-motor coordination and/or visual perceptual skills supporting school performance.
Working with students on fine motor skills
Typically, therapists conduct exercises with students who need help on fine motor skills and set up a home exercise regiment for parents to help them improve their child’s fine motor skills in addition to what is received at school. Fine motor skills involve cutting with scissors, writing letters within the lines on paper, and putting together puzzle pieces. This is a particularly important step in the process for early childhood and elementary students, along with upper grade level students who have special needs or who have been involved in an accident or similar circumstance where fine motor skill ability has been diminished.
For many students, not having developed fine motor skills can affect everything from writing ability to working with science equipment for experiments. Working with an occupational therapist helps students to gain these skills in order to be able to successfully complete assignments and meet objectives.
Working with students on large motor skills
School occupational therapists also work with students who need support to develop large motor skills. Skipping, running, and jumping are some of the activities that use large muscles. In addition to the practice and exercise that students get in developing these skills through a physical education class, occupational therapists in schools are able to provide additional opportunities for students to work on the development of these muscle systems.
Activities of daily living (ADLS):
- Bathing, showering.
- Toileting and toilet hygiene.
- Functional mobility/transfers.
- Personal device care.
- Personal hygiene and grooming.