School-based Occupational Therapy
With school starting back I wanted to dive into occupational therapy within the school system. How it’s different from clinical settings, what they focus on, who can receive OT, and more!
If you missed the blog post a couple weeks ago, 5 Back-to-School Must Haves for Children with Special Needs, make sure to check out that useful information as well.
LET'S START WITH A LITTLE REFRESHER ON ME!
I currently work full time in the Rome City school district, I have done therapy in the school setting since I graduated in 2016. I am not assigned to just one school so I currently travel between 4 different schools as well as serving a couple of preschool kiddos. I particularly like this because I serve the middle and high school which means I get to keep my kids as they grow and finish out their school years helping them prepare for life after school. Kids in the special education system are allowed to remain in school through their 21st birthday allowing them more time to prepare for that transition after graduation. This is the same for most clinics, when a student graduates from high school they typically are finished with their pediatric outside therapy as well.
How does a child receive services in school?
There are 2 ways this typically happens. If a child has been served by Babies Can’t Wait their services will transfer over when they begin attending Pre-k. From there we will look at the goals they were addressing and decide if anything needs to be changed or updated. Goals for therapy in the school system must be school-related and be geared towards the child’s independence in the school setting. If a child was not receiving therapy beforehand or if they are not even considered special ed but may have some difficulty with handwriting or fine motor skills the teacher can call a meeting with the team and parents requesting the child be evaluated for occupational therapy services, from there an evaluation will be done and the child will either begin receiving services or it will be decided they do not qualify if the deficits do not hinder their schooling.
With outside therapy in a clinic, insurance is helpful. Some children with disabilities receive Medicaid while others may only have private insurance. You may have a copay but for the most part therapy should be covered by insurance. In the school setting therapy services will be provided no matter if the student has insurance. The school services are done at no cost to the family. Some school systems may bill Medicaid while others may not but regardless of insurance status if a child qualifies for therapy services in the school they will receive those services.
School vs Clinic
As I mentioned earlier therapy goals in the school system have to pertain to school whereas clinical goals can be for any aspect of life. Because of this sometimes we will see where a child may receive outside services for something but not qualify for school services or a child may need some services in the school but not attend outside therapy. Then of course we do have children who receive both.
How is therapy done in school?
I think this will differ based on the therapist and school system. I personally like to see my kids one on one. Depending on what we are working on this may be done in the classroom, outside, in the gym, or in the lunchroom. My younger kiddos have a lot of goals for coloring, playing appropriately, self-care skills, or sensory needs. My older students focus more on independent living skills as we begin to prepare them for the transition after high school.
If you have concerns about your child’s needs in the school or if your child has an outside therapy plan that should also be implemented in the school setting I would suggest contacting the teacher and discussing the possibility of OT services in the school. The teacher can direct you in the direction and walk you through the next steps
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