Parents of children with special needs may seek out special therapy for their children from providers at medical practices. However, the public school system also offers children with special needs or developmental delays ongoing therapy from professionals within the school. Speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy are all part of the services that a child may be offered as part of their educational experience.
While speech therapy and physical therapy are pretty straight forward, occupational therapy may be a little more confusing to parents.
- Occupational therapists focus on developing all the skills a person will use in their daily life. In the school, they make sure students can actively participate in all of the scheduled events of the school day, including electives like PE and art, as well as less structured time, like cafeteria time and recess.
- If a child is assessed by an occupational therapist at school, a referral meeting happens with the teacher, the therapist and the parents, discussing any concerns anyone might have and giving everyone a chance to ask questions. Then, the occupational therapist will observe the child in their classroom throughout the day.
- Standardized tests are administered to determine how the child is doing at basic skills compared to other children their age. These tests measure how they coordinate the use of their eyes and hands together, their basic handwriting skills, fine motor and gross motor skills, as well as how they respond to and regulate sensory input. Observational tests will also help in determining a child's skills.
- Once all testing is completed and observations are recorded, an occupational therapist makes recommendations about the services a child should receive throughout the school year to help them actively participate at school and improve their skills in the areas evaluated.
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