What does an occupational therapist do in the school setting?
In the school system, an occupational therapist looks at how the student's "occupation" (academic performance) is being effected by fine motor, gross motor, social, sensory, visual perceptual, environmental factors and cognitive factors within the classroom. An occupational therapist uses task analysis (breaking down an activity into simple/basic steps), clinical observations, classroom observation and standardized assessments to evaluate a student. Occupational therapists can act as a consultant to teachers and other staff members in the school district. Students are often referred for an occupational therapy evaluation due to fine motor concerns, visual perceptual concerns and behavioral concerns in regard to sensory type behaviors that the classroom teacher has. Occupational therapists look at a student's muscle tone, upper extremity strength and stability, pencil grasp, ability to cross midline, bilateral motor coordination, in-hand manipulation skills, body awareness, laterality, visual motor integration, visual perceptual skills, handwriting, fine motor skills, separation of the two sides of the hand (precision and stability), etc.
Occupational therapist's can work with students who have sensory processing disorders. An occupational therapist could suggest appropriate calming or alerting activities for the student depending upon the student's needs. Occupational therapists can recommend assistive technology that would be beneficial to a student and help the student succeed within the academic environment. Assistive technology can be very simple from adapted scissors to the use of computer devices. Occupational therapists can make recommendations for the classroom environment that could make the environment more conducive students that are easily distracted or sensitive to noise. Occupational therapists also look at a student's posture and how their environment either promotes or hinders good posture. Occupational therapists can also help students develop social skills, problem solving skills and coping skills that will help them to succeed within the school environment. Occupational therapy can be provided in the classroom (push in model) or outside of the classroom (pull out model) depending upon the student's needs.
Fine Motor Activities
1. Lacing and stringing beads
2. Using tongs/tweezers to pick up various small objects
3. Playing with play dough, silly putty, theraputty, clay
4. Hiding coins/small objects in play dough, silly putty, theraputty
5. Having your student form small balls with play dough and have him/her pinch the balls with thumb and index finger
6. Using clothespins to pick up small objects or using clothespins for a spelling activity by writing letters on the clothespins and having your child pinch the clothespins onto a piece of cardboard
7. Spin tops
8. Snapping fingers
9. Playing with legos, knex, jacks, marbles, etc.
10. Using a hole punch for an art project or to make a design
11. Tearing pieces of paper and making a collage/design
12. Games such as Jenga, Operation, Thin Ice, Connect 4, Ants in Pants, Don't Break The Ice
13. Lite brite or peg boards
14. Making sculptures with toothpicks and soft candy such as dots, gum drops, marshmallows, tootsie rolls, clay
15. Putting coins in a piggy bank
16. Using a small stapler
17. Sticker pictures
18. Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking, or bear walking
19. Coloring with crayons, markers, colored pencils, chalk
20. Painting/finger painting
21. Cutting out pictures, cutting various textures such as construction paper, play dough, pipe cleaners, sandpaper, straws
22. Using an eye dropper to move water
24. Any craft activities that involve cutting, coloring, painting, tracing, stapling, hole punching etc.
27. Dot to Dots
28. Using a spray bottle to water the plants, make a design on the side walk or driveway
29. Making pasta or cheerios necklace/bracelet
30. Playing with finger puppets
It is important to vary fine motor activities for your student so that they do not become "bored" with fine motor activities.
My email: cbesaw @ekcsk12.org