Girls Smile

Role of Occupational Therapy in Schools

Occupational therapy involves the "therapeutic use of work, self-care, and play activities to increase independent function, enhance development, and prevent disability. It may include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and to enhance the quality of life."

- American Occupational Therapy Association Executive Board, 1976

"Occupational Therapy helps children and young adults with disabilities from birth to 21 years of age to benefit from their educational programs. We focus on the student's performance in the areas of hand skills, eating, self-care, social skills, and play/leisure skills. Services may include assessment to determine strengths/needs; collaborating with teachers, families, students, and others on environmental and material adaptations; developing strategies and activities to enhance performance; and providing student specific interventions."

-School System Special Interest Section

Role of Physical Therapy in Schools

Physical therapy is provided at schools only when it is related to educational needs. The role of the school-based physical therapist (PT) is to provide evaluations and interventions through direct services and/or a consultative model to meet the gross motor needs of students with identified disabilities that limit the access of the students to their school environment. Physical therapy interventions are designed to enable the student to travel throughout the school environment; participate in classroom activities; maintain and change positions in the classroom; as well as manage stairs, restrooms, physical education, the playground and the cafeteria. School-based physical therapy is not intended to meet all of the therapeutic needs of a student; rather it is intended to ensure that a child can have physical access to his or her education.

Occupational and Physical Therapies help develop the following:

  • Fine Motor abilities (pinches and grasps, manipulative skills, pencil and scissors use, handwriting

  • Gross Motor abilities (running, jumping, climbing)

    • Balance and postural reactions

    • Muscle tone and strength

    • Body awareness

    • Motor planning (ability to plan, initiate, coordinate, and execute a motor act)

  • Visual Perception (shape recognition, visual memory)

  • Visual Motor Integration (copying shapes, copying block designs, copying from board, forming letters)

  • Sensory Integration (response to sensory stimuli, discrimination of sensory input)

  • Executive Functioning Skills

  • Behavior (arousal level, attention, problem-solving skills)

  • Self-care skills (eating, dressing, toileting, bathing)

  • Community living skills (use of public transportation, money knowledge, shopping)

  • Play skills (use of toys, types of play, playground access)

  • Social skills, peer relationships

  • Pre-vocational and vocational skills