School-Based Pediatric Occupational Therapy
At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), our school-based occupational therapists (OTs) and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs) work with students to reduce barriers that limit their ability to learn and participate in the school and classroom environment.
We view occupational therapists as a resource for the entire building that contribute to the overall quality of instruction inside the classroom. Not only does this allow students to better meet national achievement standards, but it can also help schools and early intervention programs reduce their special education budgets while improving their program as a whole.
How Can an Occupational Therapist Support Students in the Classroom?
If a student has disabilities that prevent them from physically participating in daily activities that are important to their success in the classroom and with their peers, then an occupational therapist may be helpful. In a school setting, an OT may be recommended for a student who:
- Has difficulty manipulating tools such as scissors and pencils
- Has difficulty drawing and writing legibly
- Has a diminished ability to attend to tasks and organize work due to sensory processing issues
- Has difficulty performing self-care skills (Activities of Daily Living or ADLs) that are necessary in a school setting
Services Provided by PTS Occupational Therapists
At PTS, we’re here to help you and your students. So, if you need an OT for your team, we’ll offer support at every step, from initial assessment and ongoing care to eventual discharge as applicable. This includes:
- Assistance with initial screenings, evaluations, and goal setting
- Assistance with early intervention in a Multi-Tiered Support System (MTSS) approach
- Assistance with Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams and accommodations
- Outcome evaluations to ensure that goals are being met
- Making adjustments to student treatment plans as necessary
- Partnering with school districts to help students meet academic achievement standards
We also provide ongoing assistance for older students who may be preparing to transition out of school. This includes assisting students in practicing adult life skills that they’ll need in their daily lives once they enter the workforce.
Our Multi-Tiered Support System (MTSS) Approach to OT
What differentiates PTS is our MTSS approach to occupational therapy. Part of that involves providing in-service trainings for teachers at partnering schools. This allows teachers and paraprofessionals to effectively intervene at the general education level before referring a student to disability services. Interventions like this can help to:
- Reduce referrals
- Lower special education costs over time
Taking an MTSS approach also means performing continual progress assessments and program adjustments to ensure that students are in the right program. By continually assessing and re-evaluating a student’s progress, we’re able to more readily discharge students who no longer require special education services.
What is Occupational Therapy?
“Occupations” refer to daily activities that students need to perform in the classroom, like playing, learning, socializing, and hygiene. By addressing the physical, cognitive, psychosocial, and sensory components that are limiting a student from performing daily activities (or occupations), occupational therapists can improve a student’s ability to participate in:
- Play and leisure
- Social situations
- Self-care rituals
OT also improves a student’s ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) that are vital to the classroom, like personal hygiene (washing hands), putting away classroom supplies and materials, and eating.
Occupational Therapists vs Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants
In addition to occupational therapists, you may want to add Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs) to your team. OTs are practitioners that are responsible for all aspects of occupational therapy service. They also design treatment plans.
COTAs, on the other hand, work under the supervision of an OT to help implement that plan.
Occupational Therapy vs Physical Therapy
Physical therapy (PT) is another key part of your related services team that assists students in their ability to perform the physical activities that allow them to succeed in the classroom. However, OT and PT help students in very different ways.
OT focuses on improving a student’s ability to perform ADLs by:
- Taking a holistic approach to helping students fully engage in daily life
- Helping students improve fine and gross motor skills related to specific daily activities
- Considering the behavioral and environment factors causing a student to struggle
PT, on the other hand, may focus more on improving or providing accommodations for specific muscle impairments due to injury or disability.
Adding an OT to Your Related Services Team
If your school or program requires an occupational therapist to support your students, then you’ll want to ensure that you’re hiring OTs and COTAs with the appropriate credentials and experience. Generally, OTs must successfully complete the following to be licensed in most states:
- An accredited occupational therapy program
- Supervised fieldwork
- A national certification examination
You’ll also want to consider how many OTs and COTAs you’ll need to hire. The exact number will be unique to your school’s specific needs and is dependent on your therapists’ schedules and caseloads. Using a data collection and management software like our BudgetWatch™ Summary Reports can help you determine how to use resources most effectively.
We Make it Simple to add OTs to Your Team
At PTS, we do the work of vetting our therapists for you so that you can be sure you have the right team in place to meet your students’ needs. Once we’ve placed a therapist in your program, we stay invested and continue to support in key ways, like:
- Continually supervising therapists
- Providing in-service training for teachers
- Handling day-to-day program management
How PTS Does OT Differently
When we place an OT with your school district or early intervention program, you’ll also get a team that views the school environment holistically. The team considers both where your program can improve while also reducing your budget.
We achieve this through the processes and platforms that have allowed us to lead the related services field in exciting new directions that maximize therapy resources, all while maximizing support for students. Just some of these processes and platforms include:
- Employing highly trained and qualified therapists
- An innovative MTSS approach to occupational therapy
- Continued training for treatment teams to meet current compliance standards
- Day-to-day program management by experienced clinical directors
- BudgetWatch™ Summary Reports that help you optimize your resources
Build Your School-Based Occupational Therapy Team with Us
Pediatric Therapeutic Services can help you add highly qualified occupational therapists to your related services team. If you’re interested in learning how we can help you support your students and improve your special education program, all while minding your budget, reach out to us today!