School-based OT has a very specific purpose: to help a child succeed in school. Typically, the two main areas of treatment are fine motor skills and attention. Each school district varies, so services may look different from town to town.
Also, OT is typically not a “stand alone” service in many schools. What does this mean? It means that an OT cannot provide direct services to a child in the absence of an IEP, or an Individualized Education Plan. If there is no current IEP, a 504 plan can be created, which is a formal document to provide accommodations within the classroom to support a student’s success.
As with other areas, services begin with an evaluation and determination of need. If results are significant, and difficulties are directly impacting a child’s learning, he/she may be found eligible for direct services, which can occur within or outside of the classroom.
OT treatments in the school will still be play-based – research shows this is how children learn best! They will use games and fun activities to address things such as visual motor skills, fine motor strengthening, motor coordination, and regulation skills.
If you think these areas may be impacting your child at school, the best place to start is a conference with the child’s teacher. She’ll be able to contact the appropriate team and get the process started!