Celebrating Occupational Therapy Month and the Role of OTs in Education

April is Occupational Therapy Month! Let's celebrate our OTs and the amazing support they provide for students.


Trying to understand occupational therapy can be a bit confusing. 

Occupational therapists are highly trained healthcare professionals who are trained to work with a variety of diagnoses and conditions including autism spectrum disorder, stroke, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, burns, fractures, spinal cord injury, orthopedic impairments, sensory processing disorders, developmental delays and so much more! 

OTs work in many different settings including schools, hospitals, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, home health agencies, and mental health facilities.
Our school-based OTs help students develop independence in their everyday school “occupations,” which include:

  • participating in their academic curriculum
  • interacting and playing with peers
  • self-care (dressing, hygiene, eating, toileting)
  • regulating emotions and energy levels for learning
  • identifying personal strengths, interests, challenges, and barriers
  • self-advocacy
  • setting and working toward goals

Occupational therapists use a holistic approach, considering the whole child when addressing their needs in the school setting. OTs are skilled in analyzing each activity that a student is expected to complete and determining the skills required to do so. 
Skill areas that are addressed by OTs include:

  • fine motor
  • visual motor
  • sensory processing
  • self-care
  • social
  • emotional regulation
  • cognitive
  • executive functioning
  • attention
  • organization
  • gross motor
  • postural control
  • strength, balance, and coordination

Occupational therapists use therapeutic activities to help students develop independence in these skill areas. They consult the IEP team to recommend beneficial accommodations, modifications, and assistive technology to improve student performance. OTs identify strengths and barriers to choosing “just right challenges” to help each student achieve their goals.

Some OT activities you may witness in the school setting include:

  • fine motor strengthening and warm-up activities with putty or playdough
  • using fine motor manipulatives like beads, pom-poms, tongs, tweezers, etc.
  • multi-step activities to improve sequencing skills
  • craft activities including cutting, drawing, pasting, etc.
  • using both hands together to string beads, type, and stabilize paper while writing/coloring/cutting/pasting/folding
  • propelling self on a scooter board
  • puzzles
  • sensory/movement activities that can be calming and/or help students become more alert
  • exploring options for adapted seating, fidgets, pencil grips or adapted writing utensils
  • writing
  • board games
  • working on vertical surfaces like easels, wall whiteboard/chalkboard, paper taped to wall
  • imitating exercises
  • using broken crayons, golf pencils, or short crayons to help develop efficient grasp
  • learning calming techniques like breathing exercises, stretching/yoga poses, and sensory items
  • copying patterns
  • sitting or laying on a therapy ball to build postural control
  • obstacle courses
  • adjusting desk/table/chair heights to ensure stable positioning for students during work tasks
  • sensory bins to explore various textures while building various skills
  • animal walks
  • practice with following directions in various formats (verbal, written, and picture cues)
  • learning about emotions and coping skills
  • games to develop impulse control
  • problem-solving activities
  • working in various positions (laying on tummy propped on elbows, kneeling, tall-kneeling, etc.)

We truly appreciate all of our occupational therapists out there. Thank you for fostering each student’s growth and helping them develop their strengths and independence to the fullest! 


Happy Occupational Therapy Month!


Author: Lori Duvall, MS OTR/L

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on the author's personal experiences, research, and opinions. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified professional or expert before making any decisions or taking action based on the information provided in this blog.

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