Occupational Therapy Fact Sheet
Schools may use specialist allied health services through this scheme to support students and the professional development of their teachers and school staff.
Allied Health professionals are not part of the medical, dental or nursing professions, but are university qualified practitioners with specialised expertise in preventing, diagnosing and treating a range of conditions and illnesses
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapists (OTs) focus on promoting health and wellbeing by enabling people to participate in the everyday occupations of life. The term ‘occupation’ is used to describe the everyday things that we do in our life roles and that make us who we are.
Occupational Therapy services can be used to meet the specific and individual needs of students with disability that affect what they need to do at school. An OT can support a student’s well-being, participation and success across many aspects of school life from building skills for concentration, fine and gross motor skills, and support behavioural needs.
There are two ways in which allied health providers may deliver services on school grounds:
1. Parent funded services for individual students:
A parent/carer may request permission from the Principal to allow their OT to deliver services during school hours to their child. In most cases, this service will be funded out of the student's NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) plan. NDIS funding does not fund group programs or services of any kind.
2. School initiated and funded services for small groups, whole of class/school and staff professional development:
Direct engagement of an OT by the school, paid for with RAM funding. These services will largely be linked to learning outcomes. Schools can use OT services to meet the specific and individual needs of students with disability that affect what they need to do at school. They may engage OT services to support identified groups of students or to provide professional development to their staff. Schools may also engage providers for the support of individual students if they believe these services are required and are not being funded through the NDIS.
Who does an occupational therapist work with?
The list below provides some examples of students who may benefit from OT support, but it is not exhaustive.
Children and young people with developmental disabilities including, but not limited to: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, specific genetic disorders and birth injuries or birth defects.
Children and young people with learning and/or behavioural difficulties including, but not limited to: ADHD, executive functioning difficulties, dyspraxia, sensory processing differences, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and anxiety as a consequence of underlying skill deficits.
Children with injuries that will require temporary supports such as post-surgical conditions, burns and injuries
Occupational therapists may also work with parents, carers, teachers and others in support roles to provide training, professional development and mentoring.
What services can a school engage an occupational therapist to deliver?
When working with students, OTs aim to develop their skills and abilities so they can learn and safely and independently access the school environment. This can include:
- Assess and analyse a student’s movement, sensory needs and cognitive and psychosocial skills to determine a treatment and support plan
- Assess the school or classroom environment to identify modifications that improve a student’s safety and independence of access and navigation
- Assess the suitability of existing available lifting equipment for a student’s specific needs
Support students with both fine and gross motor difficulties such as pencil grip (fine) and hand-eye coordination(gross) Support students with both fine and gross motor difficulties such as pencil grip.
- Support the setting up of equipment to support students in completing their class work more comfortably and efficiently (e.g. setting up an iPad mounted to a student’s wheelchair)
- Designing tasks and environments to support students to achieve improved participation in their education
- identify personalised adaptive equipment reasonably necessary for a student’s school attendance (e.g. change tables, shower and toileting arrangements) and any required modifications
For teachers and school staff
OTs work with teachers and school staff to provide expertise and training and ensure that they are equipped to best support students with specific needs. This can include:
Training and education:
Providing training in mobility support, positioning, manual handling or use of lifting or other adaptive equipment.
Work collaboratively to develop and implement a student’s Personalised Learning and Support Plan.
Specific education on specific needs ie. Understanding sensory processing disorders.
Team Teaching and classroom support:
This form of service delivery can also provide support and upskilling opportunities for the classroom teacher.
How are services delivered?
Depending on the therapist, there are a number of ways in which services can be delivered.
- Face to face
- One on One
- Virtual consultations which can be effective for low intensity and ongoing support, or can be used to supplement face to face services. They may use:
- Virtual/video conferencing
- Online platforms
- Small groups
- Classroom and all school
- Training workshops and webinars
- One off session
- Ongoing (ie. Weekly session for the period of a school term or year)
- Educational/professional development program series, short and long