School-Based Occupational Therapy: FAQ

Who can receive school-based OT services?

Under the school system model, occupational therapy is considered a related service. This means that in order to receive OT services provided by the school, the child must be qualified for an individualized education plan (IEP). Additionally, to receive school OT services it must be deemed educationally relevant in assisting the student in accessing their education, as determined by the IEP team.

Can anyone else receive school-based OT services?

In addition to students with IEPs, students who have a 504 plan in place may also receive school-based OT services if the team determines that it is required for accessing their education.

What is the process for getting school-based OT services started?

The process begins when a referral is made. After permission has been obtained and all necessary consent papers have been completed, the occupational therapist will conduct an evaluation consisting of standardized and informal assessments. Once the evaluation results have been interpreted, the student's IEP team will make a collaborative decision on if school-based OT services are required.

Who can make a referral?

The referral may come from the classroom teacher, resource teacher, school speech-language pathologist (SLP), a member of the special education department, or a parent, to name a few. Essentially, anyone can make a referral or request for a child to be evaluated for school-based OT services, but it is up to the IEP team to determine if it is educationally relevant and required for the child to access their education.

Where are school-based occupational therapy services provided?

It is the best practice for school-based OT services to be provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This may be in the student's classroom, the cafeteria, playground, etc. depending on the student's needs and goals. At times, it may be necessary to pull the child out of the classroom during a non-academic time to best address their needs.

How are goals and the amount of services to be provided determined?

Goals and service times are established on an individual basis through collaboration between all members of the student's IEP team. They are not pre-determined.

What areas are addressed by school-based OT?

Occupational therapists in the school system may work with students and teachers to address the following skills: fine motor (including handwriting, scissor skills, grasp patterns, and manipulation skills), visual motor, perceptual, gross motor, and psychosocial skills. School-based occupational therapists may also be part of an IEP or 504 team to recommend accommodations or modifications if direct therapy services are not recommended.

*Please note, this list is not meant to be exhaustive of all the areas addressed in school-based OT, but rather to give an overview.

-Glenna Nave, M.S., OTR/L