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Occupational Therapy

Last Updated: 1/21/2019 6:09 PM

What is Occupational Therapy in the educational setting?

Occupational therapy services in the public school system are mandated by federal law and are considered a related service (related to special education services). These services are available for qualifying students receiving special education services ages 3 – 21. To qualify for services, a student must show an educational related difficulty with fine motor, self care, sensory motor and/or social/emotional development which impairs his/her ability to function in the school environment. The purpose of OT is to allow the student to more fully benefit from their special education program. 

What is the difference between school based versus medical occupational therapy?

Clinic based OT focuses on medical issues.   Clinic services focus on addressing functional difficulties in a variety of environments (i.e. home, community). The goal is to assist the child to function in all environments. At times the child may not be eligible for OT in the school system, yet may have needs in other environments that are appropriately treated in a hospital or clinic setting. 

According to the Kentucky Department of Education: “The question that requires an answer is NOT  ‘ Does the student qualify for occupational therapy or physical therapy in school?’ …but rather… ‘Is an occupational therapist’s or physical therapist’s knowledge and expertise a necessary component of the student’s educational program in order for him/her to achieve identified outcomes?’ This is determined by the Admissions and Release Committee (ARC) following development of the IEP goals, benchmarks/objectives, and specially designed instruction.”

Review the Resource Manual for Educationally Related Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy in Kentucky Public Schools and OT-PT Frequently Asked Questions to learn more abut educationally relevant therapy.

Key Definitions with Links to Home Activities for Parents and Children

Fine Motor:  Fine motor skill utilizes hand and finger muscles to manipulate small objects.

Tactile Perception: Tactile perception is the ability to distinguish various objects through touch and pressure.

Vestibular Perception: Vestibular perception is the child’s perception of movement due to the inner ear being activated and the position of the head being changed.  Vestibular stimulating activities must be done with caution and calmly so as to prevent the child from falling or bumping head. Children who are non-verbal may not be able to tell you if they are hurting so be cautious.

Proprioception Proprioception is kinesthetic or body awareness which provides information to the child from inside the body from the muscles, ligaments, and joints.  These are especially helpful for children who have low muscle tone and who are not able to be sure where their body is in space.  They are in need of heavy work activities, which involve heavy weight for the body to carry.

Motor Planning and Equilibrium: Motor planning is the child’s ability to organize, plan, and then execute new or unpracticed fine motor or gross motor activity; equilibrium is the child’s ability to maintain balance when shifting positions.

Child Development Information

Links to Other Websites:

American Occupational Therapy Association
Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center
Additional Links