Occupational Therapy Makes Its Way into More Schools and Classrooms

An exclusive article published by MultiBriefs reports more schools are seeking occupational therapy (OT) services for students. According to The New York Times, both New York and California schools have seen a 30% increase for OT services requests. In addition to providing these services to students in need, teachers are beginning to design their classrooms to include OT supports for their entire class. The MultiBriefs author attributes this increase to the way parents are raising children today. Some parents carry babies more than they allow them to move on their own, which can be detrimental to the child’s body development and ultimately his or her ability to sit in a chair, write and pay attention when he or she enters school. Also, the amount of reading that happens at home before a child starts school impacts his or her brain development.

To battle the potential achievement and skills gaps in their classrooms, educators are starting to provide sensory supports for all students. These include adapted school supplies like scissors and handwriting tools for those with motor skill issues, in addition to visual aids, structured routines and transition cues between activities. Additionally, incorporating movement in the classroom is becoming more popular. Exercise balls, bungee cords for the legs of chairs, hand tools for fidgeting and even movement breaks are all sensory supports helpful for students with attention issues.

If a teacher notices a student struggling in the classroom, he or she can test each of these supports with the student using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework to determine which helps best. If the teacher observes that none of the supports are helping the student’s attention to instruction, the teacher can request an OT to come in and suggest additional supports. If these additional supports do not improve the student’s attention either, the OT can conduct an evaluation and determine what supports or therapeutic strategies the student needs and detail these in an IEP.

For districts that are unable to staff an OT or are experiencing high caseloads, online occupational therapy from PresenceLearning is an effective alternative for conducting evaluations and therapy sessions. Using an onsite paraprofessional to assist the student when needed, PresenceLearning’s OTs can work with the student via videoconferencing on skills such as:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Posture
  • Reading and writing skills
  • Sensory processing
  • Other motor and integration skills that enable students to access the educational curriculum

Just like any other OT, the online OT works with students to help them develop a personal alert program for self-regulation.The OTs teach the student to read his or her own body to determine whether it is functioning low, high or just right. If they are too high or too low, the student knows to seek out an effective sensory support. This helps students self-advocate so they can pay attention in class and perform better academically.

To learn more about our online OT offerings, click here.