Occupational Therapy in the public school is provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
" To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living...."
Occupational Therapy services in school vary depending on a child's need. Children are referred for an occupational therapy evaluation by the office of special education or Instructional Support Teams at the individual buildings. The occupational therapist works closely with the classroom teacher and family to determine how the child's disability impacts the child's participation in school activities. The occupational therapist contributes to the child's individual education plan. Goals and objectives are written to address the child's needs. The occupational therapist provides therapy to facilitate fine and gross motor development, sensory processing and self help skills.
" Teaching Kids to be Independent in Everyday Activities!"
OTR & COTA Services
Registered Occupational Therapists:
Martha Boyle, OTR
Karen Moline, OTR
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants:
Occupational Therapy services are provided by Registered Occupational Therapists and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants.
Registered Occupational Therapists (OTR) have completed either a bachelors or masters degree program in Occupational Therapy. The OTR is responsible for evaluating students, developing OT programs, direct service, consultation services and supervision of COTAs.
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA ) have completed a 2 year technical program in Occupational Therapy. The COTA implements direct OT services under the supervision of the OTR.
Occupational Therapists use terms or jargon that parents and teachers may not be familiar with. I hope this page helps you to understand the kind of information an OT focuses on.
Sensory Integration: As we develop, our body takes in information from our basic sensory systems; tactile, vestibular and proprioception. As these systems develop, the child develops an awareness of movement and position sense. This forms the foundation for motor skill development and complex learning. Children who have SI dysfunction do not process sensory information accurately. They may avoid or seek excessive amounts of sensory information. Consequently, motor skill development is impacted as well as tolerance to sensory stimuli. Please refer to my links page for further information regarding sensory integration.
Vestibular system: This sensory system is very primitive in its development. The semicircular canals in the inner ears, provides us with information about movement and head position. Research shows that faulty vestibular system registration impacts visual attention and muscle tone. The vestibular system is the system we focus on when we provide sensory integration therapy.
Proprioception: The muscles and joints have receptors that tell our brains what position our bodies are in. This is important for motor coordination development. Close your eyes and think about the position of your legs or hands. We do not need to see where our body is, we can sense where it is. Imagine not being able to accurately perceive what your body was doing unless you were watching every move. Think about how that would impact your skills.
Kinesthesia: This is awareness of movement sense. As our bodies move, we know how high to lift our leg to climb a step, where to place our hands to zip a coat and how hard to throw a ball to get it across the yard. Our bodies have developed this awareness through experience (and play).
Tactile Defensiveness: Some children dislike certain food textures, tags on their clothes and getting a hair cut. When this dislike impacts daily activities to the point of avoidance or controlling of their parents, we consider it dysfunctional and may say the child is tactile defensive. This defensiveness is also noted in other sensory systems as well.
Visual perception: Visual perception is not the same as visual acuity. When we look at visual information, we need to discriminate, sort out what is important and what is just background information. We need to recognize forms when they are changed or partially hidden. This ability helps us to recognize people, symbols such as the printed word and details in our environment. Difficulty with visual perception can greatly impact learning, especially learning to read!
Postural strength: Children with motor impairments may have weak postural strength. If the trunk is weak, the rest of our motor movements are going to be impacted.
Modulation: We use this term to describe how well a child registers sensory information. When a child is functioning "just right", we say he can modulate sensory information. When they are experiencing difficulty, we say the child has sensory modulation difficulties. We need to teach the child to recognize and register sensory stimuli accurately so that they don't over or under respond inappropriately.
- Difficulties with handwriting often initiate an occupational therapy evaluation. Some children are not as successful as others in mastering handwriting. For some children, extra practice with handwriting is essential. When practicing it is important to learn the correct letter formation technique and practice it the same way every time. Try these ideas for practice:
- It is important that your child learns how to write the letters of the alphabet from memory!
- practice everyday is sometimes needed
- provide a model of the alphabet for the child to refer to
- practice on a dry erase or chalk board
- rainbow coloring large letters, trace over the letter repeatedly with different color crayons
- make the letters out of playdough
- pour salt on a tray and trace the letters in the salt
- practice everyday
- Make sure your child is holding the pencil with thumb and fingers. Many children wrap their thumb tightly around their fingers rather than placing it on the pencil. Have the child practice moving their fingers and thumb to move the pencil, not the whole arm.
- Some children require specialized equipment to help with positioning of themselves or their work. Slant boards, pencil grippers, seat cushions and foot stools are often recommended.
- Assistive technology is always considered when developing the IEP. If the educational team requires additional information regarding assistive technology options, a referral can be made for an assistive technology assessment. Amherst Schools have been using a variety of low and high tech assistive devices for many years.