Occupational Therapy Services
School-Based Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy (OT) is a profession built on the principle of affirming the importance of engaging in meaningful daily life activities or “occupations.” In schools, occupational therapists use their unique expertise to help children prepare for and perform important learning and school-related activities and to fulfill their role as student.
School-based services are based on appropriate evaluation and assessment, measurable outcomes, and data-driven decision making with families as integral members of school teams. In school-based programs, occupational therapists are related service providers who address performance skills where a child’s disability impacts or compromises the ability to access, participate, and/or to make progress in his/her natural learning environment and in the general education environment.
Occupational Therapy Service Providers
All AACPS occupational therapists have completed OT degree programs from ACOTE-accredited universities and achieved national board certification from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. Occupational therapists maintain licensure from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene through continued education and on-going professional development activities.
Determining the Need for OT Services
In order to receive school-based OT services, students must be identified as having a disability that meets the criteria under the IDEA. The school team, which includes the parents/caregiver, establishes the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance and develops an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The need for OT services is not based on specific test scores or discrepancies, rather the deciding factor is whether the unique expertise of the therapist is required for the student’s educational participation. Some students, while not eligible for special education services, may qualify under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The 504 Plan specifies the accommodations that are necessary for a student to access educational activities and may involve input from an OT.
Delivery of OT Services
Services are provided to and on the behalf of students. Strategies and interventions are embedded where possible into naturally occurring activities and routines within the educational program.
OT services on behalf of student may include:
- Explaining how a student’s medical, fine/visual motor, or sensory motor problems will affect school performance
- Suggesting modifications to school activities and the school environment
- Adapting materials for use in school
- Helping to set realistic expectations for the student’s performance
- Monitoring the effectiveness of therapeutic modifications and accommodations carried out by school personnel
OT services provided directly to students either individually or in a group may include:
- Exploring and monitoring seating and positioning adaptations to increase independence and participation in school activities.
- Exploring modifications to school activities.
- Exploring individualized adaptations of school materials to increase independence and school participation.
- Developing a program of therapeutic activities to support a student’s performance in the educational environment.
- Training school staff in techniques for handling, mealtime participation, or helping a student use special equipment and then monitoring use of the techniques
- Ongoing reassessment of the student’s needs and the role of OT in addressing those needs
Discontinuation of Occupational Therapy Services
Discontinuing services is warranted when the IEP or 504 Plan team determines that the child no longer requires the unique expertise of the occupational therapist to achieve educational benefit. Factors in this decision include:
- Child has met the functional goals
- Deficits are no longer interfering with the child’s ability to function within his/her educational program
- Strategies can be implemented by the current educational team
- Equipment and environmental modifications are in place and are effective
- Level of participation is within expectations for the child’s educational program
- Rate of skill acquisition, potential for progress and/or level of function are not likely to change with therapy intervention
Difference between School-Based and Community-Based OT
A medical diagnosis or motor delay confirmed by evaluation results does not automatically indicate a need for school- based OT. There must also be an adverse impact on the student’s performance or access to his/her education. School-based OT is not intended to replace community medical services, but is provided only when identified problem areas directly affect educational performance that indicates a child needs related service to benefit from special education. Collaboration between school-based and community-based occupational therapists is often advantageous when children receive both types of services.
How can I find out more about School-Based OT services?
If your child attends an Anne Arundel County Public School:
Contact your child’s teacher or school administrator.
If your child is birth to two years-10 months:
Contact Anne Arundel County’s Infants & Toddlers Program at 410-424-3260.
If your child is between the ages of two years-10 months and five years old and does not attend an Anne Arundel County Public School:
Contact Preschool Child Find at 410-424-3280.
If your child is five years old to 21 years old and does not attend an Anne Arundel County Public School:
Contact the administrator of your neighborhood school, which can be located by going to: http://gis-world2.aacounty.org/silverlightviewer/?Viewer=MyAA