Sunday, May 3, 2015

Occupational Therapy: More than Just Hand Writing

When a parent mentions that their child receives Occupational Therapy at school, what is the first thing that most people typically think of? Hand writing. Although writing is part of occupational therapy, OT is so much more than that. In the school setting, our job as Occupational Therapists is “to help children prepare for and perform important learning and school-related activities and to fulfill their role as students” (Occupational Therapy in School What most people do not know is that in the school setting, OT supports both “academic and non-academic outcomes, such social skills, math, reading and writing (ex: literacy), behavioral management, recess, participation in sports, self-help skills, prevocational/vocational participation, and more, for children and students with disabilities” (Occupational Therapy in School

Here are some ideas of how Occupational Therapists can assist in a few of the above skill areas previously mentioned.

  • Behavioral Management: For more information
  • Eliminate as many environmental distractions as possible.
  • Establish a well-defined work area for the child. This will help to limit outside activities that would detract from his/her concentration.
  • Use classroom aids such as headphones, videos, etc. Provide for controlled exposures.
  • Pace activities realistically.
  • Incorporate gross motor skills into activities whenever possible.
  • Use bilateral activities, using hands and eyes in the lesson. 
  • Use a timer. When the timer stops, students may have a short break. Never use a timer to speed up work, for it will cause tension and frustration rather than increase skill.

Self-Care:  Self-Care, Community Integration and Work are areas in the school system that OT’s address student’s daily living skills in order to facilitate future employment, life goals, and independent living, as well as, facilitate the necessary functional and problem solving skills needed to access community services in order to function independently. ( )

  • Areas of self-care include: personal hygiene, toileting, self-feeding, personal devices, independence, cooking/cleaning, budgeting, and community and personal needs.
  • Community Integration and work areas in which Occupational Therapists can assist with include: information, participation, and job requirements, manage time and work, and equipment.
  • Prevocational Skills: Prevocational skills are needed to prepare for the work place. OTs assist students with analyzing the components of the job and analyze their own abilities and limitations that affect their job performance. Types of skills that may be addressed in therapy include: Time management and efficiency, body mechanics, strength and endurance, and ergonomics and dexterity skills. OTs may also assist with incorporating the use of specific tools or equipment (ex: hammer and nails) for small construction projects. One other way OTs can assist is with “on the job” training as they help students modify and monitor their work at their job site (

Occupational Therapists can be utilized more to assist with all these different areas in order to help the student achieve success and independence within their academic settings and to help prepare them for life after school.

Kristel Croffoot, OTR/L, graduated from A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona in 2011 with her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. Kristel has been working in the Pediatric field since graduating and has worked in the clinic, home, and school-based settings. She is certified in Hippotherapy and loves using horses as another treatment intervention to reach functional occupational outcomes. Kristel is currently working as a travel therapist and has worked in Texas and is currently working in North Carolina. She loves being a travel therapist and the opportunity to work with children all around the country. 

 Janet Ledford is an Occupational Therapy Assistant student at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina and will be graduating in May 2015. She is currently on her last clinical rotation, working with Kristel, in the school-based setting.  Janet is looking forward to graduation and beginning her career in the Occupational Therapy field.