How Can Occupational Therapists Support Within School Environments?
Children are at school 40 weeks of the year, 5 days a week, 6 hours a day. This is a huge amount of their year so it is crucial that children are supported within the school environment to ensure they can meet their goals, achieve academically and thrive socially.
As occupational therapists one of our biggest values is holistic care. This means focusing not only on the child themselves, but the environments they are in and the people around them such as their parents, teachers, siblings and friends. Working with your child’s school is ensuring that your child’s goals are being addressed no matter where they are in the day.
Occupational therapy for children within the school environment can look very different depending on the child, the school itself and the goals. Occupational therapists can provide training and education to the child’s support team such as teachers, education assistants and other therapists, observations and recommendations for environmental changes, equipment and adaptations and provide onsite one on one therapy sessions at school.
Training and Education:
Teachers and other school staff such as assistants and principles are a huge part of a child’s day. Occupational therapists can work with your child’s teachers to empower, educate and provide specified recommendations. Examples include:
Provision of education and training on specific developmental conditions or diagnoses such as sensory processing disorder and dysgraphia and what this may look like at school or how this may impact the child’s school day.
Training in mobility, manual handling, positioning and necessary equipment needs
Recommendations for specific equipment, environmental changes, adaptations to demands and expectations at school and behavioural strategies.
Attending IEP (individualised education plan) meetings or general team meetings to discuss goals, progress and recommendations. This can involve other therapists such as speech therapists, paediatricians or psychologists.
Sharing of resources or goals to ensure a holistic approach across all settings. This may look like the teachers providing certain goals to the occupational therapist to include in therapy sessions, or ensuring certain resources, instructions or activities are used across all environments.
Observations and Recommendations:
As clinic based occupational therapy for children, we usually only see the child during one on one, structured, supported sessions once a week or once a fortnight. At school there are so many more elements – other children, noise distractions, visual distractions, their friends, teaching demands and expectations, multiple instructions and more independent work. This can significantly change how a child performs at school versus in a clinic situation. To ensure that we are providing holistic care, occupational therapists can conduct school-based classroom observations. This may look like attending the child’s school during a certain class or topic they find challenging. Occupational therapists will then observe the environment, academic demands, attentional demands, sensory needs or stimulation and how the child is performing. Following an observation, the occupational therapist will then provide detailed recommendations with specified adaptations which will allow the child to thrive.
Sometimes school sessions are more beneficial than clinic visits for the child. In this case, occupational therapists will travel out to your child’s school to perform the therapy session. Therapy sessions at school will focus specifically on school-based goals such as handwriting, social skills or sensory processing. Completing a school session ensures that a relationship or rapport is built with the child’s teachers or assistants to empower all involved in the child’s care.
Here at iThrive West Leederville, we can support your child not only in our wonderful clinic but also within the school environment. We offer school observations, meetings, screening and school sessions where beneficial. All of our therapists bring unique talents to the table to support your child, your family and your school. Please do not hesitate to contact us for Perth occupational therapy for children.