by Ascend staff Christina Pandolfo, MS, OTR/L, School-Based Occupational Therapist
It’s April, and along with our OT community here at Ascend we are celebrating Occupational Therapy Month, where we honor and spotlight our industry and the heartfelt work our dedicated therapists do in both clinic and school-based settings. Below are common questions about Occupational Therapy and more specifically, Pediatric Occupational Therapy.
What is Occupational Therapy and What Do Occupational Therapists Do?
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) states the definition of Occupational Therapy as ‘a science-driven, evidence-based profession that enables people of all ages to participate in daily living or live better with injury, illness, or disability. This is accomplished through designing strategies for everyday living and customizing environments to develop and maximize potential.” (aota.org).
When explaining Occupational Therapy, I also think it’s helpful to talk about the meaning of occupations. Occupations include all meaningful activities a person participates in daily life, which can include self-care, work and leisure activities. Throughout our lifespans and as we grow older, our daily activities change and look different: for example, a child’s occupation is playing and being a student; and a retired person’s occupation may include hobbies, leisure time and daily self-care. Since the focus of Ascend’s work in our communities is in Pediatrics, we are focusing on Pediatric OT in this article.
What is an Occupational Therapist’s role in Early Intervention?
Occupational Therapists working in Early Intervention (EI) work with infants and toddlers (typically upto age 3) providing family-centered services and help to promote and support function and engagement in everyday routines. This includes the occupational areas of activities of daily living (ADLS), play, rest, education and social participation (aota.org). These services can be provided in a hospital, clinic, or home setting.
Working in Schools vs. Working in the Clinic and Medical Setting…What is the Difference?
Clinic-based Occupational Therapy uses a medical model that begins with a diagnosis and a doctor’s referral. Clinic-based Occupational Therapy may be covered by medical insurance and can also be paid privately. Occupational Therapists working in a clinic-based setting create an intervention plan to address areas of ‘occupation’ such as play; areas of self-care such as dressing, toileting, and other self-care tasks; self-regulation etc. The goal of clinic-based Occupational Therapy is to assist the child to function well in all environments. The clinic-based Occupational Therapist will address all the environments in which the child may be struggling with everyday activities of daily living.
School-based Occupational Therapy uses an educational model in the school setting which is focused on education and academic performance. Occupational Therapy in the school-setting must be ‘educationally relevant’, meaning that the therapy is aimed at addressing the student’s functioning in the classroom and school environment ensuring the student is able to access their education. For example, Occupational Therapy in the school setting works on educationally relevant fine motor skills, such as pencil grasp, pre-writing and handwriting, scissor skills and bilateral coordination skills. Occupational Therapists in the school setting can also address play skills and sensory strategies to help students focus and participate in classroom activities. Sensory strategies to help students focus and participate in the classroom can include using fidgets, flexible seating options and movement ideas to use during sensory breaks.
A special THANK YOU to our Ascend OT’s in both the clinic and school settings – you are valued and appreciated for everything you do to help enrich the lives of children in our communities!
Are you an OT looking for a new position in the Clinic, Early Intervention, or School-Based setting? Feel free to check out our job openings, based in both the Bay Area and Southern California! Job Openings – Ascend Rehab Services, Inc (ascendrehabinc.com)