School-based Occupational Therapy
In the school setting, Occupational Therapy (OT) is a "related service" to special education under Part B of the Individuals with Education Act (IDEA). Related services are provided when they are needed to assist students in achieving their IEP objectives. To qualify for OT services, the students must qualify for special education services through a multi-factored evaluation. Occupational Therapy services must be tied to specific IEP objectives. OT objectives should be related to functional activities within the school or community.
School-based therapists look at underlying skills and issues related to hand function, oral motor function, visual motor and perceptual skills, sensory awareness/processing, self-care and pre-vocational tasks in the educational setting. This differs from the traditional medical model of therapy services, which focuses on medical needs. While medical conditions or a disability may be present, school-based therapy services are not required unless the disability impacts the student's ability to make progress in their educational program. The goal of OT services is to support the optimal success of a student in school, in the community, or in vocational activities.
These areas can be addressed through a variety of intervention strategies, which may include direct therapy with the child individually or in small groups, consultation with the teacher or other staff, modification of the environment, provision of adaptive equipment, and staff training. The services usually occur within the environment where the skill is needed (i.e. classroom, playground, community).